Our district is taking a hard look at where to cut funds for next year because Texas, like many states, will face huge budget shortfalls for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately, one thing they seem quick to cut is our GT funding. We have been given high expectations for our GT kiddos (all GT identified students should score commended on our state testing). People seem to forget GT is an innate ability-not necessary meaning academic success. There are GT students who are ESL or have learning disabilities or maybe just don't test well. I have a feeling if we don't reach that almost unattainable goal, it will be used as another excuse to cut programs.
Besides going to meetings and voicing and opinion to administrators, I feel pretty helpless in the situation. I've been teaching GT students for awhile now and since it's my passsion, I read everything I can get my hands on regarding that subject. Here are my recommendations if you have GT/advanced kids in your classroom (for what it's worth):
1) Peer tutoring as part of the school day is not challenging a GT student. I have this debate with colleagues all the time. Their reply is "if you teach something you learn it better". I disagree. I recently taught a co-worker to use Excel-I didn't learn how to use it any better. And I could have spent that time learning a new program that might be more useful to me. Advanced students deserve to learn new things every day as well.
2) Differentiation is not just a buzzword. Your lesson plans should contain activities specifically for your high, medium, and low kids. Workstations/small group instruction is a great way to do this in elementary. Does it take time to create multi-leveled activities? Yes, but the payoff is worth it-no one is bored and everyone is growing!
3) Rigor does not mean giving them more work! Rigor is going deeper into the curriculum. Every classroom, yes, every classroom can include rigorous activities. This is where the kids will really learn to think and be able to apply what they are learning.
4) There are many different products for projects! We are a very project-oriented school. They are take-home assignments-Science Fair, History Fair, Hispanic Heritage, Black History and I think it prepares kids for future assignments required of them in Middle/High School. However, it's always a tri-fold board :(.
a) letting the kids work in groups to write skits about historical figures (my Kinder kids did this last year for
Black History and still remember the details of what they learned about those important people).
b) Writing/Performing a song
c) An interview/news report
d) Write a resume/report card for a historical figure-what a great way to apply what they've learned-
Napoleon-what would he put under "gets along well with others"?
e) A sculpture, diorama, triorama, model
There are soooooo many other options. Isn't the point of these projects to see if they can apply what they've learned-let them be creative in how they show that.
5) Teaching a GT class is not easier than teaching a regular class. I hear this all the time as well. "Your kids already know everything, you can just sit back and relax". First of all (I had a friend who said she knew I was mad when I started my sentence with "first of all") my kids are still on a spectrum of levels. In 1st Grade right now their fluency ranges from 0 (definitely a learning disability going on there) to 140 wpm. I have to differentiate as much as any other class, but also have to come up with challenging activities to keep them interested. Secondly, it's hard to come up with rigorous activities for every subject every day-I spent a lot of time looking for resources and planning. I have to supplement our reading and math programs often. Some administrators believe the most highly rated teachers should teach only the "low" classes, so I guess that relegates the low-rated teachers to GT classes-makes sense, doesn't it?
I'll get off my soapbox now! :) I just wish the people in education who make the decisions regarding funding realized that these kids need as much guidance as "regular" kids do. Just because they may be able to pass the state tests doesn't mean they don't have huge potential for growth.