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The Gifted Middle School Years

teenager 1 copy

The concept of the “middle school” took root in the U.S. in the 1980s and has not served the gifted population well since its inception. By definition, it is the opposite of gifted education focusing on early adolescence as a time for cultivating age-peer relationships where team work prevails over individual achievement. Children who may have experienced even minimal gifted programming at the elementary level now see these services vanish. Cooperative learning too often places these students in an untenable position of ‘carrying the load’ in classroom academic endeavors.

“Middle schools can also be difficult for students who were never challenged at the elementary level if no gifted options were available.”

Middle schools can also be difficult for students who were never challenged at the elementary level if no gifted options were available. Persistence, the ability to overcome failure, the lack of developed study skills are all obstacles to academic growth at the middle school level and for some the beginning of underachievement.

Many teachers at this week’s chat conveyed their frustrations with a system that places emphasis on high-stakes testing over deep learning, an attitude from fellow teachers that exceptionality is a bad thing, and that middle school teachers lack even minimal training in gifted education. As teacher Tami Terry pointed out, “GT kids automatically filter in to Pre-AP classes, which can be good and bad, [but there is] no consideration for areas of strength or weakness. So we often end up with a gifted kid, who hates science, in Pre-AP Science struggling and failing.” On the flip side, high school principal Dr. Steve Ritter noted that in middle school, “tracking the kids sometimes starts here. A “stigma” for kids not in middle of the road (low & high achieve) may emerge.”

“Parents play a pivotal role in their gifted child’s transition from elementary to middle school. It’s important to recognize that even a gifted child will face uncertainty, new demands, and academic challenges at school. Middle school students need their parents’ guidance even when they don’t recognize the need.”

Our discussion then turned to the effects of asynchrony on the middle school gifted student. Precocious gifted adolescents still experience asynchrony in social-emotional development. (Kerr & McKay, 2014) Many parents pull their children from public schools during these years and return later in high school. Dating can be challenging when age-peers may have little in common socially, psychologically or intellectually.

A bright spot in the middle school years for gifted students arrived with the introduction of Talent Searches. Available from many institutions across the U.S. (see links below), Talent Searches specifically target intellectually gifted middle-school age students. They provide high quality, accelerated and enriched gifted programming online and during the summer.

Finally, we discussed how parents play a pivotal role in their gifted child’s transition from elementary to middle school. It’s important to recognize that even a gifted child will face uncertainty, new demands, and academic challenges at school. Middle school students need their parents’ guidance even when they don’t recognize the need. Parents should consider changing parenting style at this age – adapt to child’s biological, social-emotional changes.  It’s beneficial to approach pre-teens and teens with a positive attitude by voicing appreciation and approval for good behavior. (Taibbi 2012) A full transcript of this chat may be found on our Storify page.

 

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

 

Links:

Gifted Learners and the Middle School: Problem or Promise? (1995) Tomlinson

Meeting Needs of High Ability & High Potential Learners in Middle Grades (pdf)

Educating Gifted Students in Middle School: A Practical Guide (Amazon)

The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America’s Middle Schools (Amazon)

Gifted Education in Blue Valley’s Middle Schools

Middle School Gifted & Talented Programs Howard County Public Schools

Middle School Gifted & Talented Services Coppell ISD

Transitioning from Elementary to Middle School: Tips for Parents of Gifted Students

Hoodies, Headphones, and Axe Spray from Jeffrey Shoemaker

Middle School Programs for Gifted Students

Surviving the Middle School Years with your Gifted Child

Caught in the Middle: How to Help Gifted Children Survive the Middle School Years

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Talent Search

“What is Talent Search?” from Duke TIP

Northwestern University’s Midwest Academic Talent Search

CTY Ireland Talent Search (pdf)

The Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search

Educational Talent Search Program

OR: Summer Math Camp for Highly Gifted Middle School Students

The Tres Columnae Project

Design Process in Education

Cybraryman’s Social Emotional Learning Page http://goo.gl/O5vdYM

Smart Girls in the 21st Century (Amazon) by Barbara Kerr and Robyn McKay

 

Photo courtesy Morguefile.

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Locating Age-Appropriate Books for High Ability Learners

M3352M-1009Young Reader*

Locating age-appropriate books for high ability learners can prove difficult  for several reasons. Asynchronous development may mean that a very young child could comprehend reading material well beyond what may be considered appropriate for their age. As Lisa Van Gemert of American Mensa pointed out, interest levels and sensitivities also play important roles when finding appropriate yet challenging books for these children. Jo Freitag of Gifted Resources commented that material deemed appropriate for a child’s chronological age might be considered too simplistic and unsatisfying to the child. Leslie Graves, President of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, noted that the depth of thought embedded in the content and the pace of information offered would also make many leveled offerings inappropriate as well.

Young reader black and whiteChild Reading**

Reading patterns found in gifted readers can be different than those of typical readers. These kids often start reading earlier than their age peers and demonstrate deeper comprehension of what they read. Kate B.  stated they may be self taught, read faster and be voracious readers.  Justin Schwamm, Latin teacher at Tres Columnae, related that many gifted learners read and enjoy multiple books at once; which can drive others crazy. Moderator, Lisa Conrad, added that it’s still important to respect the developmental process and allow a child to enjoy reading at various levels. Parents should resist the urge to ‘push’ a child to read simply because they excel in other academic areas.

Parent readingParent Reading to Child*

Reading to children was still considered an important role of both the parent and teacher even after children were reading well on their own. Jerry Blumengarten, well known content curator Cybraryman and former teacher, remembered family reading time as enjoyable and an important time to be set aside even after children were reading. When he taught Language Arts, his 9th grade students loved when he read dramatically to them. Jayne Frances reminded us that reading aloud is important for pronunciation of words and sharing more precise or alternate definitions than those gleaned from context. Many also related the importance of emotional bonding that occurs when adults read to children whether it was a parent or teacher.

The popular school reading program ‘Accelerated Reader’ did not fare well in the opinions of many at this chat. This program seemed out-of-sync with high ability learners. Justin Schwamm told us that he was not a fan because extrinsic rewards for an intrinsically-valuable task are problematic at best.

Questions for this chat are here  and a full transcript of this chat can be found at Storify. Links from the chat and additional links are below.  Thank you to all chat participants who shared links with us.

gtchat thumbnail logoGlobal #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Fridays at 7/6 C & 4 PT in the U.S., midnight in the UK and Saturdays 1 PM NZ/11 AM AEDT to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Pageprovides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community.

Head Shot 2014-07-14About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered byTAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gmail.com

Links:

Search Book Titles by Conceptual/Vocabulary Difficulty Age from Armadillo Soft

67 Books Every Geek Should Read to Their Kids Before Age 10

Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers (Amazon)

Guiding the Gifted Reader (1990)

Reading Lists for Your Gifted Child from Hoagies Gifted

Best-Loved Books: A Unique Reading List for Gifted Students Grades 6-12 (pdf)

Book List for Very Young Precocious Readers (link on bottom right of page)

Book List for Pre-teen Gifted Readers from Suki Wessling

The Challenge of “Challenged Books” Gifted Child Today Magazine Spring, 2002

GT-World Reading Lists

Books for Young Readers from the MN Council for the Gifted & Talented

Appropriate Content for Gifted Readers from Duke TIP

13 Age-Appropriate Books for Young Gifted Readers

Gifted 101: Choosing Books for Your Young Gifted Reader

3 Reasons I Loathe Accelerated Reader from Lisa Van Gemert, The Gifted Guru

Dear Google, You Should Have Talked to Me First from Jen Marten

Reading Lists from Jo Freitag of Gifted Resources

Appropriate Expectations for the Gifted Child from SENG

Slow Down and Look at the Pictures

Early Literacy Page from Cybraryman

Mensa Foundation Excellence in Reading

What Should I Read Next 

Reading List for Key Stage 1 Gifted Readers (pdf) from Potential Plus UK

Reading and Literacy Skills Page from Cybraryman

Books Page from Cybraryman

Newbery Medal Winners 1922 – Present 

Caldecott Medal and Honor Books 1938 – Present

Mrs. Ripp Reads

Additional Links:

Orientation (The School for Gifted Potentials Book 1) by Allis Wade

Revelations (The School for Gifted Potentials Book 2) by Allis Wade

Gifted Readers and Young Adult Literature: A Perfect Match from Duke TIP

Book Lists from Davidson Institute for Talent Development

The Gifted Reader’s Bill of Rights (pdf) by Bertie Kingore

Mind the Gap: Engaging Gifted Readers 

Resources for the Middle School Gifted Reader 

Books for Gifted Readers (Middle School)

Reading Projects for Gifted and Talented Students

Just Because They Can Doesn’t Mean They Should: Choosing Age-Appropriate Books for Literature Circles

*Photos: Courtesy of morgueFile

** Photo: Courtesy of Pixabay

The Middle School Years ~ Tweens to Teens

In this chat, we discussed both school and home strategies for dealing with gifted middle school kids. We learned that Ireland and Australia utilize a primary/secondary model and the U.S. uses both a Jr. High model and Middle School model. The Middle School model was originally intended to address the social-emotional needs of early adolescents through heterogeneous groups. It was noted that this does not aid gifted students in middle school. Homeschoolers present at that chat cited this as a major reason for homeschooling.

The moderator noted that middle schools need to understand the limitations inherent in cooperative learning for gifted students. School districts need to support teachers by providing them professional development in differentiation and individual strategies. They need to be open to flexible grouping based on ability. Enriching all students in a regular classroom is not equal to providing gifted students with an appropriate education.

Turning to what parents can do in the home, it was suggested that parents need to recognize peer influence and provide opportunities for gifted kids to get together outside of school. Middle school is often a time for making new friends and testing boundaries. Firm, but flexible is a good strategy. We need to understand that gifted tweens are under more stress to achieve and to compete during the middle school years.

Links:

Meeting the Needs of High Ability Learners in the Middle Grades

Academic Diversity in the Middle School (1995)

Educating Gifted Students in Middle School (2005)  (Amazon)

Inspiring Middle School Minds (2009) (Amazon)

Young, Gifted and Neglected

Gifted Learners and the Middle School: Problem or Promise?

Responding to the Needs of Middle Level Gifted Learners (pdf)

“Gifted Students Are Seldom Given What They Need” from Dr. Deborah Ruf.

Embracing Introversion: Ways to Stimulate Reserved Students in the Classroom

Cluster Grouping

Living the Life Fantastic (Blog)

Differentiated Instruction (from Cybraryman)

 

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