Delaware News

Teachers learn strategies to help gifted students

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There is no such thing as a typical student, say leaders in the Delaware City School District.

Mandatory testing takes place for all students in second and sixth grades to determine if they are gifted, either academically or cognitively. Testing also is done on an individual basis throughout a student's school career, if it is requested by a parent or teacher, district officials said.

Based on the definition given by the Ohio Department of Education, students are considered gifted if they score in the 95th percentile on a national test, such as TerraNova or Iowa, or earn two standard deviations above the mean on a cognitive test, such as InView or Woodcock-Johnson.

About 19 percent of students in the Delaware City School District have been identified as gifted, according to Misty Swanger, director of enrichment.

Although the testing is mandated by the department of education, there are no mandated programs for gifted students. In other words, districts can choose to offer special programming for their gifted students, but it is not required.

Delaware offers many programs for gifted students in elementary school and middle school. Once students reach high school, options include Advance Placement classes and dual enrollment in college.

Swanger said the district aims to be proactive and innovative when coming up with ways to meet the needs of gifted students. Three years ago, it began offering the Virtual Reading Classroom for gifted third-grade students.

The students meet with a teacher only once a week and complete the rest of their reading activities online by themselves or with other students, she said.

Swanger said although no two gifted students are alike, many experience similar frustrations in the traditional classroom.

"Sometimes these kids think very fast and learn quickly, which can make them inattentive in the classroom if the lessons are being too repetitive," she said.

Swanger offers suggestions to teachers regarding how to deal with some of these issues -- for example, having gifted students work on a more-complex, real-world math problem that they can spend time on, instead of having them repeat simple problems.

Swanger's department offers professional-development courses for the district's teachers that aims to help them with techniques to deal with the academic, social and emotional needs of gifted students.

One example of this is how to deal with gifted students who like to blurt out the correct answers before other students have a chance to answer.

"Instead of having the teacher reinforce that behavior by saying 'great job' or 'perfect answer,' we tell them to say 'thank you,' and solicit answers from other students," she said.

Teachers also are encouraged to teach persistence, she said. Gifted students are not used to dealing with challenges, so often when they face one, they are quick to give up, Swanger said.

"We want them to struggle through it if they have to," she said. "Everyone will face a challenge, gifted or not, and they need to learn to keep going and deal with the challenge instead of just abandoning it."

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