Gifted and Talented

Feb 21, 2006

Miles Berry

Someone asked me recently about what provision we make for our ‘gifted and talented’ students. I try not to worry too much about how the terms are defined, or how one goes about identifying such pupils, which sadly seems to be where the focus often lies: I’m far more comfortable thinking of my pupils as complex individuals, rather than being in one category or another, or even as being surrounded by clouds of tags!

I’ll do a certain amount of acceleration, given my particular context and the relatively high stakes entrance exams my pupils have to face in January of Year 6, so I’ll tend to use Y7 and Y8 resources with our Y5 & Y6 pupils, on the basis that

  1. they cope fine;
  2. maths will be one less thing to worry about when they get to their next school; and
  3. otherwise there’d be precious little new content during Y6.

More important is the range of enrichment and extension opportunities that I try to offer them, so we have flexible setting for maths, and on some occasions will go for a select ‘scholarship’ type group and explore things far off the syllabus (we’ve done things like binary, complex arithmetic and £sd addition with this sort of group), or more complex problems, open ended tasks etc. On other occasions there’ll be an enrichment type activity for the whole class, such as cryptography or independent statistical investigations, and I’m particularly interested in exploring the applications of mathematics at primary level. Using Moodle means that there’s a range of extension or enrichment stuff available online at any time for those who’re interested, including a weekly problem, and links to sites like NRICH. Sudoku puzzles have proved popular with some of my pupils.

The area where I think there’s the most potential for innovation though is in personalized learning, which goes far beyond the limited scope offered by traditional differentiated tasks. This is a relatively new area for me, but I’m exploring ways of letting my pupils do more independent work, with suitable scaffolding, to develop research and creativity skills within areas that particularly interest them, whilst still providing opportunities for collaboration. I’m seeing this as a way for me to support and validate their less formal learning outside the classroom, and get across the message that there’s far more to education than what happens at school. I’d like to explore more opportunities for them to work alongside those in other schools, or wider learning communities, but come up against child protection issues.

I think this is going to be an area that it’ll be quite exciting to be more involved in, and things like personalized leraning environments can make a real contribution here, as can opening up the content creation possibilities within a VLE like Moodle, making more use of wikis and discussion forums rather than resource presentation and online assessment.

On the ICT side, handing out copies of the OpenCD for them to try programs out for themselves away from school seems to have caught the imagaination of some.