A student with special talents in writing and art.
All About Alix:
Alix is fifth grader at JFK Elementary School. At 11 she has become fascinated with boy bands, books, and the latest Jamberry nail products. Her hobbies include reading, writing poetry, playing her cello, photography, sketching and listening to music. She lives at home with her single mother and her younger brother. Her mother is very invested in her daughters future and is willing to commit to helping her succeed. When she was in first grader Alix was tested for the gifted program but fearing that she would feel out of place her mother opted not to have her skip a grade. Instead she meets with a gifted facilitator at least three times a week to ensure she is on track. Alix performs on level in both math and science, she exceeds expectation in the understanding of history and shows a true talent and knowledge beyond her years in reading/writing comprehension and art.
Challenges to Overcome!
Alix is an exceedingly bright young student which at times can be her downfall:
- With the extra time she has after completing an assignment, Alix tends to socialize with the students around her causing a disruption to her peers who need more time to finish.
- Being pulled from her normal classrooms to spend time with her gifted facilitator has made Alix feel as though she's missing out on what her peers are doing in their regular classroom setting.
- To combat the feeling that she is missing out, Alix has started doing poorly in the subjects in which she was excelling, because she didn't want to feel like she was missing out.
- Alix has very little outlets to express her creativity, art class is limited to every other day and Alix's art teacher has her following the same curriculum as her peers which leaves her with time to become a disruption.
- Her mother would like for Alix to spend more time in the classroom with her peers to ensure that she is thriving socially and not just academically, and more so now than ever because next year Alix will be graduating from fifth to sixth grade and attending a brand new school.
- Without set goals, Alix's potential is limited to the hour or so she is allotted during her normal class schedule.
Teacher to Student Connection
To help Alix succeed she needs to know that, as the teacher, you're there for her every step of the way. To become a useful resource for her I intend to help her by:
- Sharing my experiences working with gifted students and being a gifted student myself.
- Becoming an advocate for her; showing her that I believe in her potential and want to give her every opportunity to succeed; both inside my classroom and out.
- Showing my enthusiasm for the progress she is making on her own just as much as the progress she's making according to the "plan."
- Helping her develop both long term and short term goals so that there is always another milestone to reach.
- Making sure she understands that nothing is set in stone; if something seems too difficult we can reevaluate it and find what works best for her way of thinking.
- Always taking her opinion into account; making sure she is involved in paving her pathway to success.
- Being interested in all that she has to do, not just leaving her alone to complete a task while I continue with the rest of her peers.
- Ensuring that nothing is just "busy" work, if there's no rhyme or reason for something why waste her time by having her do it?
Student to Student Connection
To help Alix succeed she needs to know that being gifted doesn't make her weird or different, being gifted doesn't alienate her from her peers. As her teacher I intend to help Alix connect to her peer's by:
- Planning activities that showcase her talents without making her feel out of place among her peers; add an additional step to her assignment that helps her reach her goals but that can be discussed solely between us.
- Not making her the teacher's assistant, if she willingly helps her peers understand something that's one thing, but I won't ask her to tutor another student or make the other students feel that she is superior to them.
- Never singling her out; every child in the classroom should feel like they're special and unique not weird and different.
- Once in a while just letting her do what everyone else is doing, releasing stress by just being a kid.
- Gifted children have been known to "go dumb" so that they fit in with their peers. Finding other children who possess a gift such as her's and allowing them to work together; challenging her mind in a way only people who think like her can.
Strategies for Teaching, Learning and Motivation; Outlets for Creativity
Alix has clear talents when it comes to writing and art. She is beyond her years when it comes to anything pertaining to literacy and her creativity in the field of art rivals students much older than she is. To ensure that she always has a passion for her talents, Alix needs access to teachers who possess teaching tools that cater to her specific needs and outlets to express her creativity. As a visual learner, Alix would do well with:
- Outlines; Give the class a physical copy of the directions. This will 1. ensure that the class know what is expected of them and 2. help Alix stay on target with her assignments.
- Add an "EXTRA" step to the assignment that isn't for credit but that will take the project to the next level. This gives everyone in the class a chance to work their brains and gives Alix a way to extend her creativity not limited to the "basic" assignment.
- Encourage Alix to create flash cards or notes for not only your assignments but for all the things she needs to remember. Note taking is a skill that will be helpful now and when she is in more advanced classes during high school and beyond.
- As a bonus step and a way to utilize her artistic talents, have Alix illustrate her notes and flashcards. This gives her an outlet for her creativity and something to learn from. (If she likes, utilize her flashcards to help any students that aren't grasping the concepts you are teaching, WIN WIN)
- http://www.fivestarpublications.com/kidscanpublish/contests.html gives a complete list of creative writing and art contest and forums for students grades K-12 to participate in. Many of these are excellent outlets for Alix's talents and also offer a good motivation to utilizing her talents including but not limited to https://www.poeticpower.com. This is a website that holds creative writing contests that offer a $50 savings bond, special recognition in the book, and a free copy of the anthology that is created from the contest to it's winners. Adding public recognition and monetary value is a great motivational technique.
- Connect with her other teachers to create projects that utilize both her writing and art skills; a project in science may be enhanced by visuals that can be made during her art class or descriptive writing skills in her english class, an english assignment can be enhanced by creating illustrations for her work.
Making periodic assessments help ensure that any student is on track with what they're being taught. The same is especially true for a gifted student. In addition to the standardized testing that is administered to all students, it is detrimental to issue other assessments to gifted students that go beyond the "normal" testing. In the case of Alix:
- Projects can be given at the beginning and the end of her school year. In each of the projects she can display all the techniques she has learned over the course of the year including both written and visual techniques. Each project should have a rubric that it must follow and each must encompass a technique that she has learned or will be learning. Then adjustments are made each new testing cycle.
- Utilize above grade level testing, this allows for a test to be administered to a gifted child to find what level they are on. Unlike a regular standardized test which tells us what we already know about a gifted student, these tests have no "ceiling" for the student to hit. Instead of just high scores these tests are read and determine which specific levels a student is on. We know they're smart but it's more helpful to the student to know the places where they excel and where the learning should start.
- Extra curricular activities can be a good way to assess Alix's level; an art show at a local venue, or submissions to a writing forum. Her success in things that are after school hours can be a better way of tracking progress than in a formal classroom setting.
- Even though they offer a limit, standardized testing can be used to assess Alix's progress. The areas where she excels are a given but it may find an area where improvement is necessary. To be a successful student she needs to improve in all aspects of her education.
Getting Everyone Involved
Being an educator, though I may have students that require a little extra time, I can't forget that I have a classroom full of students that deserve attention as well. The techniques that will be utilized for Alix can also be adapted to fit the needs of her peers as well.
- Setting individual goals for all students can be helpful to ensure that everyone has a successful educational career. As a motivation have the other students set a goal for themselves that can be assessed at the end of the semester or the end of the year. Goal setting doesn't have to be specific to a gifted student.
- As Alix writes to submit to the writing forum of her choice, encourage or assign the class to conduct like writing assignments that capture their best writing. Instead of or along with submission to a writing forum like Alix's, collect these writing assignments and have the students track their writing progress; where they're getting better and what needs assessment.
- Have each student create a beginning and ending project. Each student can decided what they would like to do the project over and will follow a rubric for grading. These projects can not only assess where their weakness are but also isolate their strengths.
Don't be afraid to ask other teachers for their input. They may have more experience or might have a fresh idea that you haven't tried.