Differentiation for Gifted Kids?

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26 thoughts on “Differentiation for Gifted Kids?”

  1. I believe that such students will accept the method if you make sure that it’s challenging and compelling. They probably don’t need as much repetition as other students. They do need to be stimulated. I wouldn’t hesitate to give them some Krashen to read. And remember the Net hypothesis. Give them things that touch their interests, make it compelling and pace your lessons accordng to them and not according to your lesson plans.

  2. I had a mini-breakthrough with a 4%er this year that might be worth sharing. I had this 7th grader last year who was constantly challenging me on my CI practices and kept urging me to make class more “challenging” and teach “grammar”. Last year I would get somewhat irritated and then invalidate his arguments. While his approach was not entirely appropriate, he was trying to communicate a genuine interest in learning about the mechanics of Latin grammar.
    This summer I decided that I needed to honor and love my 4%ers and not project my own issues with traditional language teaching on to them. So approached I this now 8th grader after one of our first classes of the year. Here’s how the conversation went:
    Me: Hey. Can I talked to you for a second? I’ve got something I want to show you.
    Student: Sure…
    Me: I thought about you over the summer and thought you might like to see this (an old school Latin grammar textbook). I’m really going to need your help this year. There’s a lot of grammar stuff I need to teach you guys before high school, but I’ve never been great at explaining his kind of stuff to kids. For these reasons, I need you to be my grammar expert for your class. I need you to start going through this book chapter by chapter and be my go-to grammar helper when we start talking about this stuff later in the year. If you need help, come talk to me rigging after clas and I’ll help you. Is this something you would be interested in doing?
    Student: Yes…absolutely (look of shock morphs into a smile).
    Me: Thanks, buddy. I knew I could count on you (big smile).
    His attitude has totally changed and his engagement in CI activities has gone way up. Now he is focusing on coming up with clever grammar questions or looking for ways to show off to me what he learned outside of class. Of course he’ll move on to Latin 2 in the high school, fail miserably and then blame me for not spending all of our class time filling in grammar charts, but that was going to happen anyway (sigh).
    Anyway, hopefully this little anecdote will be helpful.

    1. That sounds like a major breakthrough, John, not minor at all. I’m coming to see that we have to understand where different kids are coming from with some of their negative questioning and challenging. I know I have one girl in particular who is often questioning in a pretty negative way or just showing attitude about how the class is. Last year, it irritated me, too, and it made me defensive and insecure. I tried to defend what I was doing without really and truly acknowledging her position. I have just recently begun to think about the same thing you are talking about. I talk to her in a different way, but I can do even better with helping her get what she needs. If I could get her to feel like we’re on the same side, the vibe of the class would be different. Her sulkiness is contagious, at least for some.
      Thank you for your anecdote. It will help me be more conscious of and deliberate about something I was just dabbling in. The days are hectic enough that I don’t always have the time or energy to really think and process what I do on the fly. It’s pretty ridiculous.

  3. This is very helpful–in addition to the posting on not being afraid to bring in explicit grammar in various ways. Last year, as a CI teacher jumping into a very traditional program, I was VERY defensive, and frankly, unable to hear or respond to the needs that my students and their families were expressing (some explicitly and appropriately and respectfully, and some less so), for the traditional work that they had originally signed up for. Some of the older kids, even if I do what they are asking for, will still not respond well, simply because I am the new guy.
    The incoming freshmen, and my sophomores, whom I have taught from the beginning, are an entirely different story. There are many fast processors, 4%ers, gifted kids, who have insatiable curiosity for history, myth and yes explicit grammatical analysis of language. They are not asking for this in order to express some resentment or bring out my weaknesses. They are naturally curious, and I am obliged to give them as many resources and opportunities in and beyond the classroom to indulge in those interests.
    So I really appreciate the sharing of ideas on how to differentiate for the 4%ers in a way that includes them in the CI community, not just putting them in a corner with a grammar book (unless that is what they really want). There should be room for them too in our classrooms, and I’m still trying to figure out how to make that space for them in a way that keeps reasonable goals and pacing for the regular kids.
    While we’re on the topic of pacing, I wanted to mention something that Bob Patrick said to me: When dealing with fast processors and their parents, the problem is NOT pacing. It is never about pacing. We should determine the pacing that is right for everyone in the room, and which reflects our department goals, ACTFL proficiency levels, etc. If a kid or parent is complaining about the pacing being too slow, we should respond with a call to an increase in depth of study on the part of that student’s work, and our expectations of him/her. The conversation should not be about “moving on” to the next chapter, the next reading, the next story. But rather, it should be about how each student can demonstrate progress within a specific reading/unit/set of structures, etc.
    Thinking in this way has helped me move away from that mindset about speeding along through a textbook curriculum. I need the reminder from time to time.

    1. John we’ve been doing too much input. Especially you there in Berkeley. When we have students who want grammar (where that is the culture of the place) perhaps we should stop class in between stories and do some 1970’s grammar translation, asking the students to translate random sentences from L1 into the TL using vocabulary from the just-completed three steps. So what if it goes an entire class period? One thing is certain – the grammar will be a lot cleaner and well done because of all the CI that preceded it. Nathaniel said this about Krashen today – “He [Krashen] has also pointed out that grammar as a content area could be taught if 1) it is a vehicle for CI and 2) it is of sufficient interest to the learner.”

  4. I think that there are actually two issues here: giftedness, and preferences for analysis and grammar about language. I am familiar with gifted testing and programs, at least as they were some years ago (but seems like they’ve not changed all that much). I do not see how being gifted would necessarily mean a desire for explicit grammar instruction. Often, gifted means extra creativity, inquisitiveness, and viewing things differently than the majority. In my thinking, story-asking and CI really reach those kids if they will engage in communication in the classroom instead of want only English-based grammar analysis of the language. I think perhaps these are analytically-minded gifted kids complaining, ones to whom stories and play don’t appeal, not holistically-minded kids who make up languages and stories in their spare time anyway, and to do that for credit in a class would be a dream.
    The idea of giving a grammar book and enlisting the student’s help in making short explanations for the class is genius!

  5. Way to be inclusive, John. Susan Gross often said to hold off on grammar until they ask for it. It is easy to think that curiosity is looking for more than a simple answer. We satisfy the curiosity and see if they want more. They are mostly not as interested as we may think they are. We are ready to give them the whole enchildada and they just want a bite, to chew for awhile. There is always more where that came from. Now they are happy and most of the rest of the group is puzzled and ready to move on to something more their style.

  6. John, this may not work for you, because of insufficient recorded Latin sources, but I think one of the biggest things I do for gifted kids is turn them loose at home. Their weekly homework assignment is to listen to watch 30 minutes of German a week. Some of them exceed this by a lot. They can also choose something more challenging if they want. I wish I had a better suggestion for Latin, however.

  7. Comment on adding in Grammar Days (as opposed to pop-ups):
    I believe I heard Stephen Krashen explain somewhere (youTube/interview) about his reassessment of his own linguistic experience. At one point he thought that he had learned French because of the explicit grammar instruction. Rethinking this, he arrived at the conclusion that it was not the grammar itself, but rather the CI that came from explaining the grammar in French that resulted in the degree of acquisition attained.
    He has also pointed out that grammar as a content area could be taught if 1) it is a vehicle for CI and 2) it is of sufficient interest to the learner.
    Would it be possible to present Latin grammar in Latin?
    I always tried to present Spanish grammar in Spanish and saw better language results and grammar results because of using the T2 as the vehicle of communication.

    1. Theoretically this would be possible. But it would include a lot of obscure vocabulary for things like, “the accusative case” or “the imperfect tense.” I don’t even use technical grammar terms at all during Latin 1. We talk about “the -m word” and “the -ba- gets a finger over the shoulder.”

      1. Not necessarily…we can teach grammar without referring to abstruse terminology using words we use every day.
        pec?niam vol?
        littera “?” in verb? significat “I…I want.”
        verbum “vol?” pers?na pr?ma singul?ris, et coniug?ti? pr?ma est. verbum est irregul?ris.

      2. …theoretically this would be possible. But it would include a lot of obscure vocabulary….
        My version of teaching grammar in CI classes takes two forms:
        1. Pop up grammar during Step 3 readings of created stories. We simply point out things like verb endings. In French, for example, we just say, “What does the ‘ent’ on that verb mean? That’s right – more than one girls.” “What does the ‘r’ mean there at the end of the verb about singing? That’s right – it means ‘to’. So that verb, with that r on the end of it, means ‘to sing’. I would never say the word ‘infinitive’ in a class. Has anyone every tried to even explain what an infinitive is? I have. It’s the quickest way to get kids’ eyes to glaze over ever.
        2. This is what I am doing that is new. If I just got through doing 70 minutes of auditory CI, we ALL need a break. So I take a few sentences from the CI we just did, it doesn’t matter what since in the CI my goal in the class is not to teach future tense endings or whatever, and, as a matter of fun, I say to the class, “Did you see that boy over there?” And they stare at me like they have no idea what boy where, and I repeat and their confused looks get deeper until it dawns on one of them that I want them to write it in French. That means a trip to the small tables against the walls to grab and write in their composition books the sentence about the boy in French. Our brains are so hungry for this kind of thinking and talking and almost goofing around with grammar after all that CI. I stand at the board and groove on the grammar. It’s like the old days. Only back then, when the grammar wasn’t in some way related to something that actually is real (meaning attached to sound) rather than something pathetically false (reasoning about words in a mechanical way), I was bored out of my head teaching French and those of us who have been there and done that know what suffering in a classroom really means.
        That is what I mean by teaching grammar and I think what James is doing. James and I think almost identically, I have noticed over the years.

  8. I’m actually in Piazza’s classroom right now, watching the master in action. He’s got some problematic know-it-all kids left over from the traditional program…they’re not even acting respectful (to classmates, not just me or John) with a guest in the room sitting right next to them, and softly talking over what other students are saying.
    I’ve been thinking about other strategies, more along the lines of troublesome, resentful 4%ers than just eager ones who will do whatever you give them.
    If you give these kids grammar, they can do it. When they can do it, there’s less reason to play by your rules and buy into your program. I am reminded of hearing Blaine say “OK, that’s where you break down” when guest teaching, notifying the student and teacher that there’s something that hasn’t been acquired. You need to show this grammar kid where they break down. Where’s that?
    Have them write some Latin, then fill up that paper with red. Explain that they can’t write well yet because they haven’t been reading enough, and that they haven’t been reading enough because they spend their time filling in charts. Charts are interesting, but there’s no skill being developed. It should be logical, and you could even throw in there that their reading will increase the harder they listen…even to just the easy stuff. Really, really, really listening to a second language takes a lot of mental energy, and I think all students take this for granted at some point…settling for “the gist” of what we say.
    New job to help, the Scriptor Grammatici Dicti (spoken grammar writer). Their job is to listen closely and log different grammatical and syntactical features. I imagine a conversation with that student going “OK, John, you heard a ton of third person plurals today, great! Did you catch that subjunctive, though? I don’t see any imperatives on here. No adverbs today, really? Listen for those tomorrow, etc.” This job might also be suitable for the eager ones, not just problematic ones.

    1. ooooooh! me likey! can you describe specifically how the job works? so i’m up there doing the thing…the PQA or look and discuss or whatever…and the Scriptor Grammatici Dicti (I am tempted to use the Latin job title just because it sounds super official) writes????
      Are they transcribing the whole conversation? Or do they write a chart with grammatical terms and they log it? Hmmm…. now that I am asking this question, maybe if there are 2 kids like this one could be the Scriptor Grammatici Dicti and the other one can be the court stenographer ( writing everything out of course, every utterance, question, aside, etc. )????
      If you could give a couple of details on the SGD I’d be forever indebted!

      1. Yes, just keep a log. If they like endings, they will listen for them, then parse out a few details. The “steno” job will likely draw too much current, crippling cognitive demand, even for the really fast processors.
        I have had various grammar jobs, such as Vox Passiva (= passive voice), but they are usually on demand and initiated by me. The Scriptor Grammatici Dicti is fooled into listening harder.
        Be careful that the SGDicti job is an answer to a resentful or eager grammar student, NOT in place of an answer to uncompelling classes.

  9. The Spoken Grammar Writer. That’s out there. But anything to get through those years of transitioning from old ways to new ways. John has been a beast in fighting dullness these past years, also when he was over across the bridge. I didn’t know you were in the same school Lance. That is wonderful! By my count, this isn’t the last group of traditionally trained kids he’s got to teach – there’s one more after that, right? And I always thought Berkeley was where new ideas hatched ever since Mario Savio.

  10. Eheu! My bad, I hadn’t come across that job, and it’s not discussed much in the Latin world.
    I don’t teach here, just visiting from Massachusetts. I now have inlaws in Berkeley, and with teaching online I just need internet connection. A couple classes are in the morning Central Time, which makes for some early mornings out here, ugh.

    1. Lance,
      Are you going to TCI Maine in two weeks? It would be great if you could. So many wonderful contributors (to this blog) will be there. Of course, there is Skip and Beth, who make TCI Maine possible, Anne Matava, Laurie Clarcq, Sabrina, Eric, John Bracey, Jen, Ruth, Angie, MB, and several who have slipped my mind at this time. Oh yeah, there is this Señor Wooly guy who will be here this year.

      1. Thanks for reminding me…I gotta register today! I was waiting to see if m institution would help get me there, but at this point it will be a reimbursement thing anyway if they can. Email me with a suggestion on where to stay…I don’t want to be the only guy at a different hotel.

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