GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS QUARTERLY
10201 YUMA COURT
P.O. BOX 1586
MANASSAS, VA 20108
VOLUME SIX, NUMBER THREE
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What are some of the effective teaching designs for the gifted? What particular components of teaching are effective with these students? What factors are detrimental to teaching them? To answer the first question, we have looked to the past, to the progressive education movement of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Answers to the second and third questions come from the experiences of an educator who is actively involved in training teachers of the gifted. We believe it is important to address these questions over-and-over again because the current educational climate is at its lowest ebb in supporting differentiated programs since the 1950s. We base this statement on current survey research results and classroom studies conducted by The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. They show that less than 20% of the classroom activities used by general education teachers were differentiated for their gifted students. In addition, general education teachers "...make only minor modifications in the regular curriculum to meet the needs of gifted students."
Dorothy Luke's article provides all teachers with ideas for improving the education of the gifted. She describes the effective work of one of the originators of the progressive education movement, and her friend and colleague, Helen Parkhurst who developed The Dalton Plan. We would like to extend tribute to Ms. Luke's persistence in awakening modern educators to Parkhurst's work. She was an innovator who came from the midwestern tradition of independence and strong educational values. As a result of the combination of her giftedness and motivation to be an outstanding teacher, she developed a plan which has some very enticing components for gifted programs, such as emphasis on children working independently according to a systematic schedule, children developing their unique skills and talents while learning how to work cooperatively, and emphasis upon accomplishing worthwhile assignments which promote their cognitive and social growth.
The Dalton Plan has made a very strong comeback in the Netherlands where about 100 schools have adopted it. Ms. Luke's enthusiasm for this plan in the United States is clear from her writing. We would like to indicate she will be a young 85 years in July 1992. She asked us to include the following statement by Aldous Huxley regarding Helen Parkhurst's book, Exploring the Child's World (1951): "What a pleasure it is to watch a truly great educator at work! How delightful to read the record of these Socratic dialogues....The questions are so simple that one would think any fool can ask them. But in fact any fool would ask them at the wrong time, in the wrong tone and in conjunction with questions that never should have been asked. To ask them as Miss Parkhurst asks them...is given only to those with a vocation for teaching and skill born of long experience...."
The second article in this issue by Sally Walker covers some of the essential aspects of teaching the gifted. She emphasizes that there is no one cut-and-dried mold for teaching them. Time is of great importance to these children. As Walker says throughout this article, it is the teacher's job to fill this time with the most meaningful activities. She is a Consultant with Education Service Center #1 in Loves Park, Illinois. In this position, she is concerned with staff development, teacher training, curriculum building, implementation of state mandates and parent education for the gifted. Her first book, The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids (1991), was published by Free Spirit Publishing.
Dr. Michael Walters discusses the work of a highly gifted writer and teacher of creative writing, Wallace Stegner. Through his novels, non-fiction works, and writing course at Stanford University, he has inspired and trained many individuals to pursue successful careers in different fields of writing. His life and work should be a model to gifted students who are particularly adept in the literary and creative writing areas.
Maurice Fisher, Ph.D. Publisher
DALTON EDUCATION FOR THE GIFTED:
COMBINING INDIVIDUALISM WITH COOPERATION
BY DOROTHY R. LUKE
THE FOUNDER: HELEN PARKHURST (1887-1973)
A hundred years ago, an exceptionally gifted girl had a dream to become a teacher and teach children as she would like to be taught. Not in her wildest fantasy, however, did she see herself a pathfinder for educators around the world. Helen Parkhurst's home town of Durand, Wisconsin, was the county seat where a teachers' institute occurred every summer. Because she could read the local newspaper, five-year-old Helen was used in the teaching demonstrations.
While sitting on a bench waiting to be called for her demonstration, Helen listened to the discussion about what to do with children when they were bad. "I'm a child," she said, "and I'm not bad." She decided to be a teacher when she grew up and tell adults how a child learns most effectively. This was the beginning of a dream. When she was old enough to attend school, she endured the hours of waiting for classmates to stumble through their recitations by imagining she was a young teacher who liked children and made exciting lessons for them.
Since she had been useful to the teachers in the demonstration class, Helen was allowed to attend the summer institutes every year until her graduation from high school. When she asked permission to take the teachers' examination, it was condescendingly granted -- to everyone's amazement, she not only passed but obtained a higher grade than achieved by any teacher who had taken the course. Without any formal training, this gifted girl earned a teacher's certificate. Years later she said, "I had memorized all the answers. They never changed."
When she learned of the need for a teacher in a nearby rural school, Helen applied for the position. Noting her youth, the school board president warned that a group of boys not much younger than she, were trouble makers. The young idealist was not daunted. She was not going to let anything deter her from taking this longed-for chance to be a teacher. When she assured the school board president that she could handle the situation, she was given the position. Elated at the thought that she was going to realize her dream, she made an appointment through the president to meet the disruptive boys. She explained to the group that she was a new teacher and needed their assistance. With their help, she rearranged the schoolroom, setting up subject corners, and designated one of the "delinquents" to be in charge of the others. This inspired move was an important step in what was destined to become Helen's Laboratory Plan for Education.
The younger children among her forty-eight charges could get help with their assignments from an older monitor. When their work was approved by the monitor, they were free to move to another work corner where there was a vacancy. This enabled the teacher, Miss Helen, to teach one small group at a time, and she helped her assistants with their studies at lunch time. Thus, by solving a problem which had overwhelmed experienced teachers geared to conventional methods, this creative high school graduate and teacher began a series of revolutionary innovations designed to solve problems as they arose. They followed no set theory; her only thought was to make learning a joyous experience for children (without confining them to their desks), and interesting for her as a teacher.
The children of all grades in that school made such impressive progress with Miss Helen's free-wheeling treatment of their lessons that she was urged by the school board to stay on. However, to that ambitious young woman, the delightful year was only the first rung up the ladder she hoped to climb.
Helen Parkhurst had raised her sights to becoming a great teacher. The following year she enrolled at River Falls Teachers' College to discover how she could achieve her goal. But she was distressed to find their methods were exactly like those she disliked at the Summer Teachers' Institute. Fortunately, the head of the psychology department, Miss Alice Shultes, saw her as an exceptionally gifted student and allowed Helen to do her practice teaching precisely as she wanted.
After graduating with the highest honors the college ever awarded, and then serving for two years under Miss Shultes' watchful eye, Helen answered an advertisement to teach first grade in Tacoma, Washington. When a perceptive superintendent (Yoder) found her teaching the first graders to folk dance, he placed her in charge of a program to celebrate the opening of the city's high school stadium in the spring, giving her as many assistants as she needed. The final number was a Spanish dance which she directed. At the end of this dance, she gave a signal for the children to regroup. At her second signal, they lay down on the ground in their orange and black costumes spelling out in sixty-foot letters, TACOMA -- "Just as the sun was setting." The citizens were ecstatic! The creator of this spectacle was presented with a thousand dollar purse and a gold medal engraved with her name and the date. The obverse side was embossed with a splendid facsimile of the stadium.
For the innovative young teacher, there was a more coveted award: The opportunity to try out a plan for effectively educating children that had been on her mind since that exciting year in the little rural school with its subject corners. Freedom of movement was the key to her educational plan. And she wanted to use this key to restructure classrooms into subject laboratories. Helen told her superintendent that she envisioned her children working like young scientists to solve problems with the teacher providing help if needed.
After the spectacular event she had staged to celebrate the opening Tacoma High School Stadium, that grateful superintendent was ready to give her any resources she requested. Parkhurst said she would need five rooms, five grades (four through eight), and five excellent teachers with a subject specialty. Superintendent Yoder readily enlisted the cooperation of Principal MacGovern of the Edison School where Miss Helen had taught first grade. Helen Parkhurst's vision of a scientific approach to teaching and learning, the Laboratory Plan for Education, was about to be launched. The five outstanding teachers were selected and compensated for preparatory work during the summer break.
With her experiment in the Laboratory Plan pronounced an unqualified success by her superintendent, principal, teachers and parents, Parkhurst's dream took on another more far-reaching dimension. She was now offered to join a college faculty, and chose one in Ellensburg, Washington because it was near Tacoma. From there it would be possible to make weekend visits to Tacoma for purposes of determining the progress of her Plan. Parkhurst spent the next seven years teaching teachers about how children learn, while leaving her "brain child" in the care of a principal in accord with her ideas and five enthusiastic teachers. During that time in 1914, she went to Rome, observed Montessori in her Casa dei Bambini, and discovered that the Italian educator shared her view that children are far more capable of intellectual work than was generally conceded. Additionally, she accepted the responsibility of being Montessori's representative in the United States.
After returning to her own work, Parkhurst opened the doors to a little school in New York City in 1918 with twenty pupils. She had to move to larger quarters three times within the next three years to accommodate the number of children whose parents wanted them taught "that way." The artists in New York City hailed her as "a voice crying in the wilderness," since she was the first Head of a school to consider the fine arts as vital to children's development.
It was a time similar to the present because vast changes were occurring in American education. New ideas for improving children's education were welcomed by teachers and administrators, and they were receptive to restructuring schools by following her Laboratory Plan. Therefore, her school in New York City became a mecca for educators around the world who were dissatisfied with the unproductive, mass production treatment of children's education. Japanese educators, impressed by the orderly self-propelled movement of the children from one lab to another, called it "the Children's University School." The name appealed to its founder who adopted it as the most appropriate name for her school. A few years later, to please an English publisher who objected to the term "laboratory" in connection with children, Parkhurst changed the name to The Dalton Plan, and the school's name was also changed to conform. (She did not want her name attached to her educational experiment lest she miss some welcome constructive criticism. Therefore, she obliged the British publishers by giving it the name, "The Dalton Plan," to honor the town in Massachusetts which was the first in America to restructure its high school by using this plan.) Her school in New York City became the model for Dalton Schools in countries as far way as Australia and Japan. Parkhurst was invited to lecture and to share her ideas with teachers in every country where her book Education on the Dalton Plan (1922) was translated, including China. The gifted girl from Durand, Wisconsin became a distinguished educator known throughout the world, honored in many countries -- most notably in the Netherlands where she was decorated by Queen Juliana with the Order of Orange Nassau.
THE DALTON LABORATORY PLAN
Dalton education is based on three principles: Freedom (within a framework), Initiative and Cooperation. These are the Plan's essence. Its substance consists of long-term assignments for at least a week that may extend to a month. The assignments are infinitely variable, as will be explained later. The advantages of this approach for the gifted child will then be apparent.
Freedom of movement is of primary importance to the development of a child's faculties. Freedom to establish his work-rhythm is less well-known as vital. This is true for all children, but for the gifted it is the sine qua non of their education. Because this type of freedom must be learned, Dalton children are taught at the outset that freedom does not mean license to do as one pleases. As in a democratic society, freedom must be regarded as a privilege which imposes a responsibility to discover the framework and to operate within it. In a Dalton School, the framework is defined by the subject laboratories, or by the Dalton corners and research center in the Netherlands. Within these limits, the student is free to work alone for at least two hours every morning or with one or more classmates on assignments. He is also free to work on them in any order he chooses. Another responsibility is imposed during this time; he may not disturb others since this would infringe upon the others' rights to concentrate on their work. The teacher in charge is always on hand to offer help as needed and to gently remind one who raises his voice that he should be considerate of others.
The principles of Initiative and Cooperation are subsumed under the canopy of Freedom. Each makes an essential contribution to the whole. It is the interaction of the three principles in conjunction with long-term assignments that delineates the Dalton Plan and defines its distinctiveness.
Self-reliance, self-motivation and self-activity are all implied by this principle. The hallmark of Dalton Education is the scientific approach to learning. Exploration and discovery are its keynotes and the reason for its original name, "The Laboratory Plan." The child as explorer plays an active role in this educative process. Assignments are designed to encourage solutions to problems in all subjects. As eleven-year old Hans in the Netherlands told me, "When you find out something for yourself, you remember it." The use of the child's initiative leads directly into critical thinking. Such mind-stretching is not the prerogative of most gifted students, but for them it is indispensable.
In the most traditional schools competition is the key to stimulating learning. In a Dalton school it is balanced by the principle of cooperation. With the freedom to work on any assignment that interests him in open lab time, a child could become so absorbed in his own work that he ignores the group. This is balanced by teachers designing some assignments for group effort. To show that competition is not completely ruled out, a gifted girl's comment speaks to that point: "This month I'm ahead of my class but behind myself." The emphasis is, as it should be, with their own individual performance.
Assignments in a Dalton School are designed to teach all children the basics of their culture but not to the same degree. Subject teachers make assignments aimed at the capacity of the so-called average child. They scale these up and down so the end result is three levels of difficulty. For the lowest level all but the minimum essentials are eliminated. The highest level is enriched to include questions that call for divergent thinking.
The gifted child has special interests that are apparent at an early age. By and large, these interests indicate extraordinary ability. They are his strengths, but he also has weaknesses. The child who also finds it easy to understand how our number system works often is excited by science. He may not excel equally in the language arts or social studies, usually because they do not have the same appeal for him. The student may of course excel in language arts and find history fascinating, but have some trouble with math and science. At a Dalton School he may elect to work on the highest level of assignments in his favorite subjects and remain at that level throughout the year. With his teacher's recommendation he may begin the year at a lower level in the others. As soon as he has mastered the material to his and his teacher's satisfaction, he may advance to the next higher level in other subjects for the next time-periods. This is an aspect of the plan that serves the gifted child well.
There is a story on record of a boy in an English school who was at the bottom of his form in math before his school began using the Dalton Plan. When he could spend as much time as he wanted on
this weak subject (getting help when he needed it from both classmates and the teacher), he made phenomenal progress and finished the year at the top of his math form.
Students draw graphs to record progress with assignments. There are small ones for personal use and a large graph is posted in each subject lab for teacher inspection. This enables the teacher to see at a glance which students have reached a "teaching point," and to call that small group for a conference in an open lab.
Any curriculum considered appropriate for children to master in order to keep abreast of advances in their society can be incorporated into their assignments. This is why the plan is so flexible and timeless. With excellent programs being developed for use with high technology equipment, Dalton teachers have a wide variety of materials to draw from. Thus Dalton students can advance at a rate commensurate with President Bush's AMERICA 2000: An Education Strategy to keep pace with students in any country in the global community.
The Netherlands Dalton Association has extended the scope of the Plan to include the very young. Since they cannot be expected to read print, other materials such as symbols for drawing, painting materials and building blocks, etc. are used for assignments with preschoolers. The days of the week are color-coded for these youngsters to record their activities. So from their earliest experience, they become accustomed to operating on Dalton principles. Their dignity as individuals is respected. Parkhurst, the pathfinder, would be delighted with this successful expansion of her creation.
When a child has been taught at a traditional school, guidance in planning his time for open labs is essential. Such guidance is provided each morning for making a tentative schedule for the day. It is generally a matter of trial before a child discovers what use of that free time best works for him. It is rather like learning to handle a weekly allowance which has to be distributed over a number of items. Eventually, he must learn that all assignments must be completed by the end of the time frame, generally a week. With the structure of the open labs, a child quickly learns he can save time from subjects that are easy so he can spend time on those that are not. The order in which he chooses to work is a matter of personal preference. Some children like to begin with a favorite subject to gear themselves to tackle harder jobs. Others like to take on the more difficult work first. Still others like to intersperse the easy with the hard, like weaving different colored strands in a tapestry. Whatever method he devises is the right way for him.
Teachers are often wary of programs which allow students freedom of movement. They fear the loss of control unless classes are highly structured with pupils in neat rows, and their position as teacher secure in front of the class. Their fears are not without foundation. Due to a misconception of what The Progressive Education Movement was all about, there were some disastrous experiments. Freedom was interpreted as license for the child to do as he pleased. The emphasis on interest was thought to advocate a permissive attitude on the part of teachers to allow children to study only what they liked. Nothing could be further from the aims of actual progressives such as John Dewey and Helen Parkhurst. The hue and cry, "Let's get back to the basics," was instigated by these misinterpretations.
The whole movement was tarred with that brush, and the term "progressive education" assumed a pejorative meaning for many parents and teachers. In this regard, the founder of the Dalton Plan said: "Nothing can be called progressive unless it progresses and that caricature of educational practices [the false ones touted in the name of progressive education] could not possibly advance children's learning."
In a Dalton School the problem of discipline is minimal. All restraints are directed toward self-discipline. Trust breeds trust when it is tied in with responsibility; there is no need for coercion. The child who is free for a large part of the day to work on any part of his week's assignments that he chooses is much less restless. What many teachers do not realize is that boredom is at the root of much disruptive behavior. The gifted child forced to keep his energy in check while slower classmates catch up is apt to feel boredom, frustration or both. This often leads to mischievous behavior or worse, distracts the other children's attention, and is an annoyance to the teacher.
The fine arts, physical education, class discussions and oral instruction are all included in the Plan. The times for these activities however, are decided by personnel in each Dalton School. Nothing is stereotyped in this school. The founder whose main concern was change and improvement for each student wanted principals and teachers to have the freedom to use their own innovative ideas. Only the following concepts are sacrosanct: (1) principles of Freedom, Initiative and Cooperation; (2) the use of long-term assignments; and (3) providing a block of open-lab time for children to work on these assignments.
We cannot foresee all of the challenges the child of today will face in the future. But we do know that change is more rapid in our times than ever before. It behooves educators to prepare children, especially the gifted, to welcome change and to imbue them with a positive attitude toward solving problems. Clearly, this cannot be achieved by traditional procedures requiring the memorization of facts. Research skills will enable them to locate such data. Dalton education infuses children with confidence in their minds as sensitive instruments in tune with freedom as a privilege and responsibility as an obligation.
As the shaping of events in the 21st century will be in the hands of many of our gifted individuals, they deserve all the help we can give them in developing their natural resources to function effectively in a global society comprising people of many differing cultures. In their own countries, they will be leaders in a democratic society with obligations to minority groups -- blacks, whites, yellows -- a society of the rich and the not-so-rich, of working people and people on welfare, brilliant people and the not-so-bright. At the Dalton school they will have practice with such leadership by helping less well-endowed classmates.
By fostering initiative and cooperation within the framework of freedom, trust and responsibility, The Dalton Laboratory Plan enables every child to learn at their own rate in accordance with their individual work-rhythm which, according to Helen Parkhurst, its founder, is "as unique as a finger print."
Parkhurst, Helen. Education on the Dalton Plan. NY: Dutton, 1922. (Reprinted in 1966 by Cedric Chivers, Ltd., London.).
(2) Parkhurst, Helen. Exploring the Child's World. NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1951. (Based on her ABC broadcasts, "Child's World.").
(3) Parkhurst, Helen. Growing Pains. NY: Doubleday, 1962.
Parkhurst, Helen. Undertow: The Story of a Boy Called Tony. NY: Farrar, Straus & Co., 1963.
For information on Dalton education in the Netherlands contact: a. Peter Theunissen, Assistant-Press & Cultural Affairs; Royal Netherlands Embassy; Wash., D.C. 20008. Tel.-202-244-5300/b. Nederlandse Dalton Vereniging; Secr: C.J. Janssen; Laan van de Bork 400; 7823 RK Emmen; The Netherlands. Tel.-31-5910-226-65.
TRAINING TEACHERS TO WORK WITH GIFTED CHILDREN: MAKING THE MOST
EFFECTIVE USE OF DIFFERENTIATED TEACHING AND LEARNING TIMES
BY SALLY WALKER
GIFTED EDUCATION CONSULTANT
EDUCATION SERVICE CENTER #1 LOVES PARK, ILLINOIS
Training teachers differs little from teaching children. With adults, previous classroom experience is invaluable in working with them. As with children, you can run the whole gamut of motivation levels. There are those adults who are anxious to learn, who enter a workshop like sponges, ready to absorb any and all information. Likewise, there are those who come, having been required to attend, who have retired early and just have neglected to inform anyone. What they used last year, and the years before served them well, so they do not have the desire or see the necessity to change or absorb any new information. They know exactly what they will be doing on what day; that's the way they have always done things. Their perception is not that students may have different needs or different rates of learning. Their idea of curriculum is "one-size-fits-all."
Curriculum for the gifted comes in various shapes, diagrams and sizes, just as does the gifted child. In the most desirable curriculum models, the areas of individual differences, interests and rates of learning are highlighted. Teachers cannot buy a packaged gifted curriculum and apply it to the gifted child in their class. There is no mold; one who tries to make a force-fit is destined to failure. Perhaps that is one reason why there is so much frustration and anxiety attached to teaching gifted children.
With teaching the average child, there are textbooks, basal readers and supplementary materials -- all geared to the average learner. When more practice is needed, a preponderance of workbooks is available. Clearly, most writing, research and teaching methods are directed toward this end, and the educational bandwagons usually concentrate upon this group of learners and teachers.
However, there is little research on how the gifted child learns in comparison to his/her average, below average or mentally impaired peers. The highly gifted child is as different a learner from the average child as is the mentally impaired child. The methods and materials used in the average classroom are just as inappropriate for the gifted learner as they are for the mentally impaired child. What may take an average learner 25 repetitions to learn and a slow learner 70 repetitions to learn, the gifted child may learn in 2 to 5 repetitions. The gifted child is given a gift of time; it is the instructor's gift to this child to make certain it is used effectively.
Classrooms where the curriculum is "one-size-fits-all" mismatch children's learning capabilities and interests with the time available. Time gets to be very precious and scarce; it's a luxury that not many want to waste. Yet some teachers have few qualms about stealing it from children by making them do needless tasks to prove and reprove what they already know, or by making them learn the material over and over by teaching their peers. Traditionally, gifted children have been provided with more of the same work or busy work to meet their needs, but this option is far from appropriate. Rewarding the gifted child with activities like coloring, being teacher's helper, playing a game or helping slower children are not rewards, miss the point of differentiated education, and do not meet the child's intellectual needs. "More of the same" does not lead a gifted child to love learning, to pursue interesting questions, to love school. If the very bright child perceives that his/her ability is more of a pain than a prize, that child may in fact play down the ability, hide his/her interests and adapt to the norm. If the ability to learn faster and deeper is not valued, frustration may arise and cause the child to misbehave, clown around, use time and energies in devious ways, or to simply become withdrawn and daydream. Homework or routine drill papers may be completed sloppily with careless errors. Penmanship may be horrid. To the untrained teacher, this child would appear anything BUT gifted. In fact, this child may be much more of a pain than a pleasure to teach. It is a frequent misconception that the gifted child is always easy to teach, a pleasure to have in class who should require no additional time and effort on the part of the teacher.
Another way gifted children cope with school is to initially do well but never realize their potential. They do the required work easily and conform to classroom expectations. Their unsatisfactory level of accomplishment may go unnoticed because they want to please their teachers, but there is no opportunity for them to perform or use material advanced enough to reveal their true abilities. Judy Galbraith (1985) has identified one of the "Great Gripes" of gifted children as "School is too easy and it's boring." They already know what is being taught.
While some gifted children learn outside of their classroom or school, the pattern of minimal achievement affects their total performance. They expect everything to come easily with a minimum of effort. When something does in fact challenge them, they may choose to give up without trying. This may explain why some gifted students actually flunk out of college. The expectation is that ALL work can be easily mastered with little or no effort.
Again, how we use the gift of time is of prime importance. As teachers, we can agree it is terrible to waste time, yet it is vitally important HOW we fill it and with WHAT it is filled. When we alter the curriculum to match the learner's needs, we are differentiating or making it different. We may choose to make the content of what is taught different. Instead of basic content, we can choose to accelerate the content to the next higher level, the following grade level, or to alter its complexity. We can also look beyond one content area to the issues, problems and major ideas associated with that area. It can be carried out to examine themes or even inter-thematic ideas (Samara & Curry, 1990). As an example, one could study insects: For the child who already has the basic knowledge, the content could be extended to study the impact of insects on the environment, the positive and negative issues of insecticides and/or pesticides, the dangers of chemicals versus natural control, the balance of nature, or the issue of interdependence and theme of survival.
Another way to use the gift of time to the maximum is to alter the learning process (Samara & Curry, 1990). Instead of having children answer simple questions when they have already mastered basic knowledge, they can be allowed and encouraged to DO something with the information (Application), to examine parts of the information to see why it is special (Analysis), to put it into a new form or to think of things that have not yet been explored (Synthesis), and to judge its worth or value (Evaluation). (Bloom, 1956).
The products of learning, too, should be used as a reflection of the child's ability. Some examples are the performance of a play, a report or an article, a concert, a painting or sculpture. This dimension is concerned with the way a child can demonstrate his/her knowledge and the ability to extend this information. Too often our classrooms require only knowledge-level, fact-based paper and pencil tests. They are easy to grade, and supply us with basic information with little regard for the breath of the child's knowledge or depth of learning. How much more productive to have the child actually chart, diagram, videotape, produce and create a solution, and to present the findings to an audience. How validating for the child! How informative for the rest of the class, school and community! All children have the ability to stretch beyond the confines of paper and pencil tests. With our direction and guidance, we need to give them the study skills and latitude to demonstrate what they have learned so they can have a voice and make a difference in their world. Empowerment produces self-confidence and increased motivation -- both are essential for gifted children.
Just because gifted children learn easier and faster, it should not be assumed that they have information or knowledge they do not have. Some young children come to school already knowing how to read. It should not be assumed that they have all the skills in reading just because they have cracked the code. Likewise, a child may understand higher math processes but lack fundamental knowledge of basic math facts. It is not a kindness to leave gaps or holes in the child's knowledge, just as it is not a kindness to make one stay at the elementary level if the base has been mastered. Hence, pretesting is a must to determine children's current levels of knowledge. Basic skills do need to be taught by using materials at the gifted child's instructional level and adapted to reduce repetition. In addition, more opportunities for creative application and critical thinking need to be offered.
One should not assume that because children are gifted, they are natural, independent learners with all research skills intact. As with all skills, the research, organizational and time management skills may require strong emphasis through teaching and reinforcement. Turning children loose in the library with no direction means they will probably be "unproductively" employed there. In this regard, independent study programs require extensive training time with students if they are to be successful. Teachers should be certain that children's interests are the starting point, and they are not simply "doing their own thing."
The gifted curriculum must be well-planned, conscientiously carried out, and accurately evaluated. Teacher expectations and grading criteria have to be clearly defined so there are no catches or surprises for the unsuspecting student.
Regular evaluation of gifted programs is essential. It should be the basis for refining, modifying and recycling any gifted program. Consideration should be given to formal and informal comments and ideas on what worked, what does not work, and what can be tried or implemented as it relates to the children, their needs and abilities. Parents and older children, as well as teachers and administrators, can provide insights regarding what was valuable, as well as what they expected to occur in the gifted classroom.
Bloom, Benjamin S. (Ed.). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay, 1956;
Delisle, James R. Gifted Kids Speak Out. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 1987;
Galbraith, Judy. (1985). The Eight Great Gripes of Gifted Kids: Responding to Special Needs. Roeper Review, 8(1), 15;
Samara, John, & Curry, James. Writing Units that Challenge: A Guidebook for and by Educators. Portland, ME: Maine Educators of the Gifted and Talented, 1990;
Walker, Sally. The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, 1991.
"Concentration is my motto -- first honesty, then industry, then concentration." Andrew Carnegie
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." Albert Einstein
WALLACE STEGNER, WRITER AND TEACHER
BY MICHAEL WALTERS, NYC PUBLIC SCHOOLS
"....the field next door is suddenly full of Robins who arrive like brown leaves, picnic awhile, and depart altogether as if summoned." Wallace Stegner, The Spectator Bird, 1976.
Wallace Stegner is an example of the charismatic power of the creative artist to inspire others. Gifted students also possess this inner quality of charisma. One of the recent education jargon-words is "collaboration." The most authentic and profound form of collaboration is between the charisma of gifted students during their learning together and exchanges of personal experiences. Their productivity and sensibility inspire each other to maturation and self-actualization. However, their charisma needs to be constantly stimulated and nurtured or it will atrophy.
Educators of the gifted require a unique personality to be a proper mentor. Presently, one achieves qualifications for teaching the gifted by obtaining a degree in this area and state certification. However, the mentors of gifted students need to have another form of credentials which reinforces the fact that giftedness is a matrix of sensibility and charisma. Wallace Stegner clearly expresses these credentials through his life-style and artistic endeavors. For decades, he has been one of the foremost educators in the field of creative writing. His writing program at Stanford University (1946-71) produced some of the most significant writers and poets in contemporary America. He has won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for fiction. His collected short stories are considered by critics to be among the finest works in this genre written in the English language within the last 50 years. In addition, Stegner has made extensive contributions to American historical research through his non-fiction works. His talents have a classic framework -- by this I mean he thinks like a classical Greek or Roman writer. During these ancient times, writers were trained to think in an interdisciplinary manner, and to respond to their world and knowledge from many perspectives.
Besides being a craftsman of the written word, his prose contains certain external modes of expression. These are poetry, philosophical musings, and wonderful observations of nature. Although 83 years old, he continues writing about different topics. He has recently written a collection of essays which demonstrate his personal giftedness. Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West (1992) contains the qualities of Wallace Stegner's uniqueness. It is divided into three sections of essays. The first part is a personal memoir; it includes one of greatest and most poignant tributes of a son to his mother ("Letter, Much Too Late"). The second part contains his observations and meditations on the landscape of his country, especially the Southwest. Part three has essays about famous writers who were his friends such as John Steinbeck.
Stegner's further gifts to the American people are: He has written one of the greatest novels of the immigrant and labor experience, Joe Hill, A Biographical Novel (1969); an important novel about retirement, The Spectator Bird (1976); and a long essay entitled, On the Teaching of Creative Writing (1988). He represents the simple insights required for gifted people to teach other gifted individuals. His powers of sensibility and charisma are necessary ingredients for completing the cuisine of gifted education.
"I cannot say often enough that the teaching of writing is Socratic. The end is not the production of clones of any approved style or writer -- and certainly not of the teacher! The end is the full development of what is unique in the young writer, without encouraging him in mere eccentricity." Wallace Stegner, 1988
RECOMMENDED BOOKS BY WALLACE STEGNER
The Big Rock Candy Mountain, 1943.* NY: Viking-Penguin, 1991.
Joe Hill: A Biographical Novel, 1969. NY: Viking-Penguin, 1990.
The Spectator Bird, 1976. NY: Viking-Penguin, 1990.
Crossing to Safety, 1987. NY: Viking-Penguin, 1988.
The Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner. NY: Viking-Penguin, 1991.
* Original publication date.
The Uneasy Chair: A Biography of Bernard DeVoto, 1974. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith, 1989.
American Places (With Page Stegner and Eliot Porter), 1981. Moscow, ID: Univ. of Idaho Press, 1985.
One Way to Spell Man: Essays. NY: Doubleday, 1982.
The American West as Living Space. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Mich. Press, 1987.
On the Teaching of Creative Writing. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College, 1988.
Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West. NY: Random House, 1992.
Of Related Interest for Students of Creative Writing: Bradbury, Ray. Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You. NY: Bantam Books, 1990.
LETTER FROM WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR. REGARDING GRACE P. LANE'S
CRITIQUE OF COOPERATIVE LEARNING: SPRING 1992 ISSUE
Dear Mr. Fisher --
Of course, Mortimer Adler would say that everybody ought to read Emerson; he would even say it persuasively. Meanwhile, however, there is the awkwardness about Fred waiting for Joe to learn how to read at all so that they can read Emerson together. One suspects that cooperative learning has become one of those things that one must embrace if one wishes to appear enlightened. Good for Dr. Lane for her sensible warning; and thank you for the copy.
Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.
IN MEMORIAM: HANS GERHARDT JELLEN 1942-1992
Born to Herbert and Ilse Jellen, in Chemnitz, Germany, Professor Hans Jellen came to the United States shortly before the turn of the 1970s, completed naturalization procedures for American Citizenship shortly thereafter -- of which he was inordinately proud; successfully followed the rigorous academic studies begun in his youth, through formal higher education in his adopted country; and until a few months before his untimely death on February 24, 1992, from the tragic illness of AIDS, had developed a remarkably productive academic and professional career in Differential Education for the Gifted.
After completing his doctorate at the University of Virginia, he served professionally at two principal institutions of higher education. He went first to the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; and left there in 1988 for the California State University, San Bernadino, where he taught until a few months before passing. Hans Jellen has left us all a noteworthy legacy on the nature of his thought about giftedness and gifted children. This memorial tribute is respectfully submitted by a former teacher, Virgil S. Ward, Emeritus Professor, University of Virginia, for his last doctoral candidate, who by mutual consent thought of Hans Jellen as his "heir apparent" in Differential Education for the Gifted. Virgil S. Ward