BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK
The gifted child often gets overlooked in poor-performing schools. Some complete activities and assignments quickly, only to draw, journal, or read. Some race through assignments successfully and bother other students because they are bored. From a teacher’s perspective, gifted children can be both a blessing and a curse to have in class because while they often “get” the lesson, they don’t always get to advance academically since the focus is often on low-achieving students.
Nevertheless, parents want their children to be challenged. And there are ways to challenge your gifted children, even without placing them in a school that requires tuition or a lottery for admission.
Talk to your child’s teacher
If you know your child is academically advanced and you want him or her to receive more rigorous instruction, talk to the teacher about it. Listen to how they plan on getting your child to a higher level. Be reminded that your child’s teacher is the expert in his or her class, and allow him or her time to work with your child for the next several weeks. But also be prepared to show up to the follow-up meeting with suggestions if nothing has resulted in your child’s progress.
Make sure your child is gifted
Just because your child can read faster than his next-door neighbor doesn’t necessarily make him gifted. Dr. Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colo., lists several characteristics of a gifted child on her Characteristics of Giftedness Scale. They include, but are not limited to, rapid learning, extensive vocabulary, early interest in reading, maturity, and strong curiosity.
Historically, gifted children have also been known to possess an IQ score of 130 or higher. To test your child’s IQ, contact a social worker, counselor or principal at your child’s school for IQ testing facilities in your area. To find out more about gifted characteristics, view the website of the Gifted Development Center at www.gifteddevelopment.com.
Conduct independent studies
Ask the teacher if your child could complete an independent study during a certain part of class time. Similar to an independent study in college, your child, after completing the assigned work for class, may finish a more in-depth study of the same material that the rest of the class learns. For example, if the class is learning about the parts of a flower, your child may identify more intricate parts of a flower or create their own flower, using objects from class, and identify the parts created.
If the class is studying how technology has impacted different parts of the world, your child could create a history board, outside of class, on one particular technological device that strongly influenced society, such as the printing press or iPad. Remember that independent studies should be highly engaging, so students won’t feel like they are doing extra work. In addition, they should be completed with little assistance from the teacher, except for checking to make sure that the project is being correctly completed in a timely manner.
Provide advanced instruction
Some schools offer students advanced instruction in some major subject areas, such as math and reading. For example, students who have mastered many of the mathematics skills could have the option of receiving math instruction in a higher grade or from a math coach or tutor. See if your child’s school offers this benefit. If not, ask if peer or adult tutors are available to your child. Many schools receive tutors from local agencies or colleges to reach students who perform below academic standards. Ask the teacher if any are available for those who perform above the standard in order to push your child to the next level. If not, find tutors on your own by asking retired teachers or college students who need extra cash. Then have your child work with a tutor after school or on weekends on advanced content they do not receive in class.
When you know your child’s skill level far exceeds what’s expected of him or her, be sure to push to the next level. Use the tips above to help challenge your gifted child and to help your child’s teacher as well.