Education Opinion

A Window to My Classrooms

By Tamara Fisher — December 21, 2011 4 min read
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I have some more photos to share with you today... snapshots of various moments with my students which help to illustrate some of what we do, what some of their talents are, and some of what I teach them.

For my Advanced Studies (independent project) class, Binary is learning about electromagnetism. Here you can see he has rigged up a meter (consisting of a gauss meter, an AM radio, and an aluminum pole) to search for areas/items of high electromagnetic output:

The biggest surprise so far is that the item emitting the most electromagnetism in my classroom is not the laptops, not the cell phones, not the iPods, not the fluorescent lights, but rather the digital clock on my desk. Hmmm...

The ear buds that Binary was wearing (to hear the “feedback” from his meter) kept falling out of his ears. He became annoyed enough to find his own solution to the problem:

A couple months ago, a professor at the local tribal college invited me to give a presentation about gifted learners to the students in her Exceptional Needs class. These future teachers were learning about students whose needs within a classroom fall outside the norm, and I was granted two hours to give them all I could squeeze in as preparation for the gifted learners in their future classrooms. They invited me back a month later requesting that I bring a “student panel” - some of my students who could talk with them directly from the kids’ point of view about what they love/need as learners. I brought about ten students, ranging from a sophomore (student on left below) to a 2nd grader (student on right below). I love how this photo gives a peek into the broad age range I work with every day!

Here Bradley is stumped by a Rush Hour puzzle.

As I’ve talked about before, a big focus of my work with my students is preparing them for how to deal with challenges in healthy ways. Gifted students so often breeze through school, especially the early years, that they don’t always develop study skills, school work ethic, and academic persistence because they are never/rarely called upon to need those things. Part of my mission is to make sure they DO develop those skills, and this is accomplished by intentionally placing them in problem solving and learning scenarios where they can learn and develop those skills (with support as needed). Rather than giving up or goofing off like he used to when faced with a true challenge, you can see that Bradley is now learning to

As my students get older (about 4th or 5th grade), I dedicate a class discussion to the generation of multiple examples contrasting healthy/positive strategies for tolerating frustration with unhealthy/negative strategies. We talk about how the unhealthy and negative strategies are used by people because they offer some sort of immediate gratification, but they are unhealthy because they also have short- or long-term negative consequences. We talk about the importance of recognizing when they are facing a learning challenge and focusing on the use of healthy strategies for tolerating the frustration that can come with that. Again, we have this conversation because these students are the ones most likely to have had the fewest opportunities to develop their academic persistence. I also want them to be more aware of what types of strategies they use and to know that if they find themselves using unhealthy strategies, it’s okay to ask someone (a parent, a counselor, myself) to help them transition to healthier ones. Here is the list generated a couple weeks ago by my 5th graders. (The section in the middle is for strategies that could be healthy in moderation or unhealthy in large doses. The blue, rectangular magnet is a little something I give them after the conversation. It includes ideas for “101 Ways to Cope with Stress.”)

Analogies are an excellent (and the students think fun) way to develop comparative thinking.

This packet of analogies for my 3rd graders is challenging enough that they often have to look words up in the unabridged dictionary to figure out the solution:

Reagan is making a battlebot for Advanced Studies. Here he is working on one of the parts he might use, the motor from an old rotary fan. Because his Advanced English class conflicts with the class period when I teach Advanced Studies at our high school, we scheduled him into an earlier time slot that matches up with when I teach the class at our middle school. As the two buildings are next door to one another, this accommodates his schedule as well as his mentoring skills. The middle school students have great questions for him!

My friend’s husband accidentally bought a couple dozen too many Eggies. I decided all the extras could be an interesting opportunity to toss a creative thinking challenge at some of my students. In about 20 minutes, my 2nd graders generated almost 40 ideas of “what these could be,” including a spinning top, mouse barrel racing barrels, a monocle, cookie cutters, an hourglass, and (pictured) a rocket ship:

I do thinking-skills-based activities in Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms. This is partly to develop higher-level and creative thinking skills in all students, as well as to give me an opportunity to see which students consistently exhibit gifted behaviors (and therefore which students might be most in need of the other services I offer). Here a 1st grader contemplates the solution to a cut-and-fold problem from a great little thinking book called Smart Snips:

Seventh grader Pickles is learning how to play the guitar and has expanded his musical interest to composing. Here, on the computer screen, you can see a work in progress using Noteflight:

Umbra, a senior, is learning six computer programming languages (Python, Perl, Java, html5, C++, and C#). Here he is working on creating a tkinter using Python:

I love the variety that comes with my job!

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.