Get Adobe Flash player
COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL The second strategy is conversation. As the Greek philosopher Socrates discovered more than two thousand years ago, one of the best ways to engage students in a learning process is through discussion. Even very young chil- dren can be engaged in conversations that challenge them to think deeply and creatively. Too often, when an exceptionally bright child surprises us with her knowledge or cognitive skill, our response is, “My, how smart you are!” The child might enjoy the praise, but at some point she needs a response that’s going to help her continue to learn and grow. Conversational strategies for challenging exceptionally bright young children include asking questions and providing authentic feedback. Throughout the book I provide suggestions for how to give accurate and specific feedback, such as repeating the child’s response in your own words and countering with an open-ended question that challenges the child to use higher-level thinking. Finally, the third strategy is connection. Social learning theorists such as Lev Vygotsky (1978) have asserted that learning takes place within a social context. One of the most important functions of early childhood educators is to help children learn from each other. How we pair and group children, how we facilitate conversations and play, and how we model collaborative learning are all important strategies that are detailed in the following chapters. Under- standing that we can enrich children’s learning opportunities by helping them learn from each other will help you challenge exceptionally bright children within the context of a diverse learning community. Exceptionally bright chil- dren can play important roles in a learning community, actively participating in the learning process as collaborators, questioners, and leaders. TABLE 1.1: The Three Strategies for Challenging Exceptionally Bright Young Children Strategy Definition Example Differentiation Teacher to Class Changing or adapting teaching prac- tices, the curriculum, and/or the envi- ronment in response to the needs of individual children Kira is a five-year-old who is already reading independently at a first-grade level. At naptime, when children are invited to choose a book to look at while on their cots, Kira’s teacher makes sure the collection of books available in the book corner offers a variety of read- ing levels, including early readers and chapter books. Conversation 4 | Introduction Structure Teacher to Child Challenging a child to think more deeply, more creatively, or with more complexity through conversation or discussion When Jeremy accurately estimates the number of pennies in a jar, his teacher replies, “Yes, that’s right. Tell me how you figured it out. What strategies did you use?” COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL