Thursday, February 9, 2017

How Do We Challenge Gifted Students?

Before arriving at Brookings High School, I emailed my cooperating teacher, Mr. Kreie, on my nervousness of student teaching. As most veteran teachers would respond, he ensured me not to worry. He also strongly believed that I will be working with an intelligent group of students. I quickly realized my cooperating teacher's statement wasn't far from the truth! In a public school system teaching Geometry and Advanced Algebra 2, not every student will be on the same playing field. Although most students do their homework, study for their tests, and work as hard as a typical high schooler, there are a select few who do not do so. No, I am not talking about those who have caught the notorious "senior slack" bug, I am referring to those students who are bored in our classrooms. I believe these students are not given as much attention as they deserve.

Being enrolled in a Special Education course at SDSU, I was naturally required to purchase a textbook for the course. As expected, the book highlights many road blocks that challenge our students today in the classroom such as ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, etc. Several of us student teachers expressed our concerns with gifted students, but failed to discuss any strategies with the professor. With No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the recently signed successor Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there is a stronger focus on special education than ever before. Although this is highly necessary, teachers continue to struggle on what needs to be done with the other end of the spectrum, gifted students. Through my observations at BHS, I have noticed several students who are continually "bored" in class. They work on personal projects, such as computer programs, instead of paying attention in class. This begs the question of how far should we allow these students to test out? If these gifted students, occasionally middle schoolers, were able to "test out" of mathematics through a senior level, what's next? If we have students who are in 9th grade enrolled in Calculus, what is there to teach them the rest of their high school careers? Is the solution PSEO? The difficulty with PSEO and online class enrollment is social interaction and classroom environment. If students are nearly skipping most of their high school education, they will be unprepared for the norms of college courses. If PSEO or hybrid/online courses were not the solution, what is?

 I don't know the answer to challenging gifted students, nor have I extensively researched the topic, but I have heard suggestions. Additional material given to this select group of students is an option for extra credit, but most likely a gifted student does not need the extra credit for his or her pre-existing A+. My cooperating teacher had an interesting viewpoint on this scenario in the sense that he doesn't believe the answer is to keep pushing these students further along the chronological mathematics timeline. Nor do either of us believe in online classes for gifted students. He brought up an interesting idea yesterday when the topic was briefly discussed. He said that a possibility is to provide a diagnostics test when approaching a new unit/topic in class. If a student passes the desired "cut off" score, they would study a related topic further in depth. This topic would not be common core alligned, nor something most high school students have seen in their lives. How this would operate in our classroom would be a form of team teaching. Due to the fact that there are two teachers in our classroom, I would potentially teach the majority of the class on the planned material. My cooperating teacher would then have another section of students in the back of the room exploring further, more challenging and interesting topics for the gifted students.

Again, I have not explored the options regarding this challenge. I am curious what options there are to give the attention that is needed for all levels of students.

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