Five New Year's Resolutions for Teaching (part one)

As it is time to make those annual resolutions, I have chosen five focus areas to strengthen my teaching. Here are my five goals. I will explain each one in a daily post.


1.) This year, I will make certain to provide sufficient enrichment for the gifted and talented students in my classes.


2.) This year, I will ensure that students have a firm foundation in basic skills and cursive.


3.) This year, I will have students turn in more handwritten writing and less typed writing.


4.) This year, I will combine related fiction and nonfiction in order to create a deeper understanding of the curriculum.


5.) This year, I will search for stories with protagonists from a variety of trades and professions.


Here’s the first one.


1.) This year, I will make certain to provide enrichment for the gifted and talented students in my classes.


To be fair, I started working on this goal last year, but it is so important that I am really going to concentrate on it this year. 

I recently took an excellent graduate class focusing on the special needs of gifted and talented students. I realized that these children might just be the most under served demographic in our classrooms. The student who earns 100% on every task in a course often learns less than the student who begins by earning 75% and finishes the course earning 100%.


In many instances, the student who masters course material extremely easily becomes a “teacher’s aide,” helping other students in the class. While this method can help solidify a concept in a student’s mind, it is unfair to expect a student to spend his/her time as an unpaid helper. Other ways that teachers use these students are grading papers and cleaning the classroom.


Other times, the gifted student gets to use class time as a study hall. While this practice occupies the student, he/she does not benefit from the teacher’s expertise. This child might as well be home.


As a teacher, I would ALWAYS love to have more time and, frankly, the ability to temporarily clone myself so that I could be certain to address the needs of all of my students in the allotted class time. (time turner, anyone?) Using students as helpers can be extremely tempting, but I cannot do so in good conscience.


Some solutions?

1.) Write, write, write.

Daily, extended journal writing on a variety of prompts fosters practice of a critical skill-at the writer’s own level, whether advanced or remedial.


2.) Discuss, discuss, discuss.

Using informal daily class discussion as well as more formal Socratic seminar methods draws all students into the conversation.


3.) Choose your own adventure.

Have these gifted and talented students work together to choose a novel and propose a project. They then carry out this project as an alternative to regularly scheduled material that they have mastered.

Last year, a small group of my sixth graders chose to read Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper, a novel about a young girl with cerebral palsy who competed on her school’s Academic Challenge team. My sixth graders went on to visit our local grade school for students with profound special needs. This year, the same group of kids organized a carnival and raised much money to purchase mobility equipment for special needs children.


4.) Club them.

No, seriously, I run a Science Fiction Club, a Fantasy Literature Club, and a Literary Club. I personally invite students I feel would benefit from this more intense level of study. At my school, one of the kids’ biggest dilemmas this quarter is the fact that Fantasy Lit Club, Chess Club, and Lego Club meet at the same time.