Kalpana was the youngest in the class—not yet five years but read chapter books (and explained the meaning of multisyllabic words) to her peers, spontaneously wrote a page long report on why she found Egyptian mummies fascinating at rest time and liked to discuss why inifinty + 1 was going to be a continuing process. As a teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed giving her a a 'tidbit' of information to see what she'd make of it.
Kalpana's mom hit the nail on the head:
- A multi-ability classroom meant that everone's needs had to be met—including Kalpana's.
- If Kalpana was bored, she wasn't going to enjoy learning.
- Additional traditional academic workload wasn't going to be the answer—she wasn't yet five years!
My co-teacher and I encouraged Kalpana to be more involved in play. We started by creating a morning routine for her—she engaged in theme related play with atleast one other student for the first half hour of choice time before she explored the book area. One of us was around to help her with turn taking skills...'Now it is XYZ's turn-how can we add her idea here?' As she became more comfortable with taking turns, the other students sought her out for play. Her peers realized that her ideas were a little more challenging and interesting. But our favorite moment came a few months later. We overheard two other students making plans with Kalpana for weekend activities, "Maybe my mom can call your mom and we can go to the park together. Do you want to go?"
Besides focusing on her social skills, we reviewed our classroom planning to challenge Kalpana academically. No, we did not increase her rote learning or provide her with worksheets. Instead we utilized the opportunities provided by our thematic units. Kalpana helped write the script for the class play during the 'Fairy tales' unit, she made banners and posters for the class presentation for the unit 'Animals in Winter', and was a 'peer tutor' for her classmates during math activities. We adapted her activities to include researching for information and conducting experiments to verify hypotheses.
Challenging a very bright child is a lot of fun—provided we focus on age appropriate learning and the sequential acquisition of skills.
In one of our after dinner discussions during my recent visit, I remarked on age appropriate curriculum. My friend, who sits on one of the curriculum development boards mentioned that yes, the syllabus has been developed keeping this is mind. But parents mistakenly believe that if their child learns more than what is age appropriate, then he (she) is very bright. So they compete with one another to challenge their kids beyond their capabilities. Schools fall for the same trap and trumpet how their students are high achievers (never mind the significant gaps in all round development) and they up the bar as well. All in all there is an artificial environment which puts tremendous pressure on our students to compete...
What separates the very bright mind from the average? The ability to think outside the box and create...can this be drilled in a coaching class?