Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hot topic: How to support advanced kids

This from a reader:
My kid has made great strides in reading and mathematics this year. For the been-there-done-that crowd, I would love to hear suggestions about how to support her, her teachers, and her school in the years to come. I've done a little research online (like Junior Great Books Program - does anyone have any experience with it?), but I would love to hear about what systems/programs/resources that have been put in place in your school or your home.


  1. We've started Junior Great Books Program at my son's parochial school (4th grade). It is a solid program for the kids who have mastered their grade-level English work. As it is led during class time by a parent volunteer, it also gives the teachers more time to work with the kids who have not mastered the grade-level work. My son has enjoyed the reading selections.

  2. I feel that it comes down to 2 simple things:

    1) stay in touch with the teacher(s) & make sure to communicate things about your child that you think it is important for them to know (what kind of learner s/he is, what the teacher has done that s/he loved, relations with peers, and so on; and

    2) support whatever your child is interested in with books, conversations, outings, etc.

  3. I am a former elementary school teacher and currently a curriculum developer at the Developmental Studies Center, a non-profit organization in Oakland. I am also parent of two young children (ages 5 and 2.5). You do not say your child's age but I have a some general suggestions for supporting elementary school-aged children at home.

    First, I'd like to recommend the Family Math books developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science (http://lawrencehallofscience.org/equals/books.html). What I like about Family Math is that the program focuses on problem-solving and builds a conceptual understanding of mathematics through engaging learning experiences that parent and child work on together. Lawrence Hall of Science has also developed in-home science kits that look very exciting (http://lhsgems.org/gemsathome.html). Although I have not seen the in-home kits, I have used their in-school equivalents and have found them to be excellent.

    I also think that reading aloud to children is very important. I recommend Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook which includes lots of suggestions of books to read-aloud at various ages. My colleague wrote an interesting blog post about the importance of reading chapter books that you might find interesting (http://www.devstu.org/blogs/2010/02/27/the-importance-of-chapter-books-in-childrens-literacy).

    Lastly, I have daughter entering kindergarten in fall 2010. She learned to read at a very young age and is now reading at about a second grade level. I would love to hear about what teachers are doing in classrooms to support children who are above grade-level.

  4. This is probably one of those issues where you will see great differences in public elementaries, but it is quite hard to figure out before enrollment. I hear a constant refrain from parents of kids at some "trophy" publics that complain that their kids are bored in class. Oddly, our school, which is otherwise struggling in many ways and definitely NOT a trophy at this point, has teachers that really know how to do differentiated instruction. My son, who is quite precocious, is constantly pushed by his teacher. He gets extra homework and extra reading assignments. She seems to really know how far she can push him -- and she does. I imagine it comes down to particular teachers -- some are good at differentiated content, others can't do it. But this may be one of those places where parents need to look deeper.

  5. This Sunday's Chronicle has an article about gifted kids and sadly how they get shortchanged.
    It will be online on tuesday and I'll post then.

    I'm the original poster - and my kid is only in kindergarten. I think that our school is set up well to deal with gifted kids. They take differentiated learning to heart and they have been very proactive about addressing their learning needs across the spectrum for all kids. My daughter gets very different homework from the bulk of her class. Our teacher had her writing sentences instead of words early in the year and now she's been working on having her write book reports.

    My kid has typically asynchronous. She is 2 years above grade level in reading and math, one ahead in writing and for everything else, she is right where she should be. So in most ways, she is like your typical 6 year old.

    We will see how things turn out in the years to come, but I was hoping that there was something I could throw money at to help not just my kid but some of the others in her class who seem to be rolling ahead of schedule in their academic development.

  6. BTW - thanks Lisa! I ordered our copies of Family math!

  7. As promised: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/05/02/MN2N1D26NV.DTL

  8. To the original poster:

    It sounds like your school is doing a great job of meeting your daughter's needs. Would you mind me asking which school your daughter attends?

    Good luck with Family Math!