This question is very important for the Kindergarten teachers. They are usually the first teachers that will see a child five days a week, for at least forty weeks a year. And a Gifted child can be an underachiever within six weeks!
Of course the Pre-K teachers are important too, and it would be even better if they already did what I describe next.
Not all parents know what a child should be 'capable of' when it comes to school, what the 'average' development is. Especially when parents have one child and not that much friends and family with kids, it's very important for the teacher to observe how the child develops.
The first stap for a teacher is to know that children can be Gifted (maybe this sounds weird, but a teacher has more to observe then only Gifted children)and what the signals of Giftedness can be. All teachers should know the definition of Giftedness their school uses.
Before children come to Kindergarten in the Netherlands, the teachers have an intake with the parents. There also is a reportcard from the 'peuterspeelzaal'.
I don't know how that works in the States. During that intake, teachers can learn a lot about a child, if they are able to ask the right questions to the parents.
Questions that teachers should ask to all the parents:
- What interests does your child have?
- What does your child like to play with? How long can he play with that?
- Does your child play with children of his own age? Why?
- Does your child ask many questions? Does he continu to ask questions until he is satisfied?
- Does your child know all the letters / numbers / colors?
- How are your childs motoric skills?
If a lot of answers refer you, as a teacher, to an advantage in development, you could also ask the following questions:
- Does your child use long sentences while talking?
- Does he use difficult terms?
- Does he use contradictions?
- How is his vocabulary?
- Does your child think about 'meaning of life' questions?
- Is your child very venturous?
- Does your child have a strong will?
- Does your child want to do everything themselves?
- Does your child have a good memory?
- Can your child complete multiple commands?
- Does your child see causal relationships?
- Does your child have fears that you usaually see with older children?
- Does your child ask questions about life and death?
- Does your child seem to think differently then his peers? Think further, deeper and longer?
- Does your child have other expectations about friendships then his peers?
When a teacher, after having these intakes with the parents, suspects Giftedness she should observe the child with these questions / answers to these questions in her mind.
She could also use a checklist for Kindergarten aged children to see if the child 'scores' high at a lot of areas. This can be done thru the whole day.
During circle time the teacher can ask questions that are on a higher thinking level, and see which children respond to those questions.
- What if - questions, to see if a child can think causal.
- Give an answer and let them think of a question that could lead to that answer.
- Ask children in how many ways they can do something.
Teachers also have to look closely at the child during 'work-time'.
The teacher can ask herself the following questions:
- Can this child persist?
- Can this child focus on his task? (If not, why not? Is the task to easy / hard?)
- Is this child working independently? (If not, why not? Is the task to easy / hard?)
- What kind of strategies does this child use? Why?
- How are his teamwork skills? Why?
The 'why?' questions are the most important. Sometimes a teacher thinks a child can't focus at his tasks, because the tasks are to difficult. Teachers should also think the other way around. The task could also be far to easy!
It is very important for the teacher to also ask the child questions. 'How did you do that?' 'Why did you do it like that?'
After the intake, the observations of the teacher and maybe even the observations of the AT teacher, there should be a parent-teacher conference scheduled.
A lot of parents will look at their children through 'other glasses' as well after having had the conversation with the teacher. They will observe other things as well. So they should be able to talk about that with the teacher. The teacher should tell what she has seen at school. The AT teacher could tell her observations as well.
It is really important that the teacher and the parents are working together on this! The parents usually know their child best!
If all the observations lead to 'possible' Giftedness the next step should, in my opinion, be an IEP for this child. There should be IEP's for all the children that develop way different than 'the average'! The teacher should 'in general' know what she can do in her classroom with the children that are Gifted.
If the 'possible' Gifted children get clustered the IEP's can be used more in general, that could save a lot of time for the teacher. (Of course every child is different!)
I am aware that it is a challenge to cluster the 'possible' Gifted children immediately after they came to Kindergarten. It would be the ideal situation though.
After making the IEP's, there has to be scheduled a parent-teacher conference every six weeks. The goal of these conversations should be how the child feels, if he is still challenged, if he isn't underachieving, how he interacts with the other children, etc.
In the Netherlands there are a few protocols that the school can use to see if a child is 'possible' Gifted. The school where I used to work, used the 'DHH' which is written by E. van Gerwen and S. Drent. There are other protocols on the market as well 'Sidi-r' (SLO) and 'Sidi-3' (Eduforce). I have never used the last two, so I can't say anything about them.
The DHH can be very useful, but is also very devious. It took me a lot of time to figure out how it worked and I already knew a lot about Giftedness before I started with the DHH. It does give good advices, while I still think the advices could be more precise, more practical.
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