Serving High School Gifted Learners

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Serving High School Gifted Learners

FROM THE EDITORS
Important GEC Updates: A Goodbye -Dr. Nancy Robinson’s GEC column for this issue is her last in this capacity –Nancy, your wit and wisdom will be missed! Thank you. A Hello – We would like to welcome Dr. Brian Housand as our new GEC tech columnist. Brian is assistant professor in the department of Curriculum and Instruction at East Carolina University. Look for his new column in this issue, “Tech Tools for Today’s Teachers.” hiGh sChooL—one size does not fit aLL.
It is my profoundly personal opinion that gifted children are getting the shortest end of the educational stick. All too often they are left  unchallenged in overcrowded classrooms in their earlier school years, so by the time many gifted children reach high school they are either bored, acting out, underachieving, or mentally checked out. At the very least, they have lost interest in their own education. At the worst, they’ve taken their advanced cognitive abilities and applied them elsewhere—for instance, to less than desirable anti-social behaviors; they may have completely lost all interest in learning, or even totally dropped out of school. The good news is that in high school, a student usually has some choices of curriculum and the opportunity to explore areas of interest. As parents, teachers, and administrators, we need to develop stronger support systems and encouragement for families who have children who need to reengage with their education and find subjects and areas that do interest them. And we need to ignore our fears when it comes to outside the box solutions; we need to better provide unique and creative solutions to bring uninterested high schoolers back to their own excitement toward learning. As Nancy Robinson states in this issue, “Most of us, alas, don’t provide such flexible, free-flowing configurations for our children, or think outside rigid, age-graded boxes.” But we must be willing to step outside those “rigid, age-graded boxes in order to find what these children need. Fortunately, we have entered an age where there are more educational resources than ever beforeto help uninterested students. In Super Sources for Science, Brian Housand states that a common characteristic of gifted students “is an insatiable curiosity and a need to answer the endless stream of questions as each question answered leads to yet another question.” High school opens the doors for students to develop more tools to answer those questions for themselves through online resources, mentors, clubs of special interest, and extracurricular activities such as student government, theater, and sports. Certainly, both parenting and teaching gifted high school students can be quite challenging. In this issue’s administrator’s column by Carolyn Cooper, she says it pretty succinctly: “Teaching gifted high school students is akin to herding cats.”  But that shouldn’t scare us off because high school, for some, is the make-or-break time that determines whether or not they will move forward with their education. Clearly, as Beth Littrell comments in her column, “…a one-size-fits-all approach will not work for high school students any more than it works for elementary or middle school populations.”
Happy Gifted New Year!
—Karen Daniels, Managing Editor
I must confess that the high school level is not my forte and I have far fewer contacts for possible authors in that area. Fortunately I turned to former CAG board member, Steven Kahl, who teaches high school English in Mountain View, California. Not only did he prepare the lead
feature article, but he also collaborated with a number of his colleagues to present an array of topics and issues facing educators and parents of high school gifted learners. My thanks to you Steve; I am confident that the entire reading audience of those parenting and teaching high school students will be grateful as well. Steve’s article lays the groundwork, so to speak, for the articles that follow. He demonstrates the importance of implementing a modified curriculum for gifted students in one of his opening statements: Although the elementary grades provide an essential academic foundation for advanced students, high school curriculum and instruction bears an equally important responsibility—preparing them to use their gifts and talents in adulthood. Given the diverse types of GATE [gifted] learners, that can be challenging. Kahl discusses the importance of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets as developed by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, and emphasizes the need for tiered assignments for advanced learners. Finally, Kahl presents a detailed, annotated “menu list” of possible projects to accompany the study of a specific novel
in his American Literature class. The ideas presented will no doubt serve as excellent examples or starting points for teachers to develop similar menus adapted to their own teaching curriculum.
Author Patrick Hurley follows with an article entitled, “Academic Language: Equipping English Learners to Speak and Write Confidently in Secondary Classrooms.” With the large numbers of English learners in many of our schools, his practical approach to assisting students in becoming familiar with the vocabulary necessary for academic success should be well received. He also provides an example of how to develop
“sentence frames” useful when working with English learners. Turning to something a little more specific, school librarian Benjamin Lundholm discusses something close to my heart—magazines! His article, “Three Wishes and a Magical Teaching Manual: Using Magazines as a Learning Tool,” makes the case for magazines as excellent vehicles to encourage “free reading” which in turn is purported to lead to “improved reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary development, spelling, and grammatical competence.”  Lundholm also includes a sidebar wherein he presents his annotated list of recommended magazines for the high school library. Lundholm shares the criteria he uses to select magazines that he believes will especially attract and suit advanced learners. Read on! Steve McCue then spotlights his methods of teaching art to advanced
learners in his article, “Using Color Effectively: The True Test of Teaching Art.” He had the good fortune of having his own high school teacher as
his master teacher while carrying out his own practice teaching. His mentor provided him with insights he now uses in his own high school classes to good effect. After detailed description of a specific arabesque assignment he concludes with, “All art students need a lot of practice and rigorous assignments that require them to visually depict anything and everything they observe. Making art creates so many opportunities for expression. Color is just one aspect of that expression.”  Author Gordon Jack shares his experiences teaching at a special high school in the Mountain View–Los Altos High School District that specifically focuses on creativity. He describes this school as follows: Freestyle Academy was created in 2005 by the Mountain View—Los Altos High School District in California to offer students an alternative to the traditional school routine. Juniors and seniorsenrolled in Freestyle attend the program for half their day and take English,Design, and either a Film
Production or Web/Audio Production class. When they are not at Freestyle, students return to their “home” school and take their other required classes.
Jack’s article, “Developing Student Creativity with Real World Applications,” illustrates what they work toward achieving at the school. Another alternative high school option is presented by Diane Tavenner who is the Founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools (SPS), a non-profit organization sponsoring Summit Preparatory Charter High School in Redwood City, California. She explains that it is their mission to “…prepare every student for four-year college success and a belief that every child is capable of such preparation or success.” The school emphasizes “personal learning plans,” “advanced placement for all,” and four-week inter-sessions in which students choose an elective to delve into intensely. Read her article, “Summit Preparatory Charter High School: An Alternative Secondary School Program” for additional details.
I hope that you find these articles as interesting and promising as I do. Thanks once again to Steven Kahl and his colleagues for providing high quality and useful information for teaching and learning at the high school level. We will be back in late spring with articles focusing on
how technology affects gifted learners—both positively and negatively.
—Margaret Gosfield, Acquisitions Editor