I was a young child that benefitted from acceleration. I began school in Chicago in the second semester of age 5, but moved to the suburbs the following fall. I remember holding my hand up a lot in first grade. I have a memory of the teacher feeling embarrassed because she couldn’t call on me all the time. Whether that memory is accurate or not, I was lucky. I had a mother who went to the school and demanded that I skip into second grade. She didn’t rest until it happened, either. My mom had skipped two years in school, but she had gone to a one-room schoolhouse with few students. She had to wait two years to go to nurses’ training because they were not flexible about age at enrollment. My dad’s schooling had stopped with high school, mostly because of the Great Depression.
By the spring of 1954, I had been placed in a second grade classroom. I was a shrimp, immature, and starting to make friends with kids that had already been together for 2 or 3 years. All of those are reasons given for not accelerating kids. Luckily for me, I had no problems making new friends, and the only thing that suffered was my cursive.
Even though I was accelerated one year in school, I still remember being very bored in classes where the teacher taught the curriculum whether we knew it or not. I graduated 70 in my class of 700 even though I took all advanced classes every year. I am not bragging. I am merely hoping that you will see how bleak my education would have been had I not been accelerated. My sons skipped two years in math instruction. What would they have done if they had not been allowed to do so?
In a perfect world, every teacher would be able to assess prior knowledge before teaching a unit, adapt that unit to each learner no matter what their abilities were, and move the class as a whole through a topic of importance. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any teachers that can do that, including myself. I taught students with disabilities and now teach gifted students, and there are always one or more students who elude my best planning. Let’s open the possibilities to students when the traditional route is not working.
One avenue of adaptation that I recommend is using technology. The uses of technology in education are numerous enough to fill many books. Just think, however, how much more compelling history would be if students were able to access original materials such as letters, photographs, videos and newspaper articles. Many years ago, Judy Harris wrote a series of articles about Internet projects that inspired teachers all over the world. Here is a list I made of the different uses:
1. Interpersonal exchanges such as keypads, global classrooms, electronic appearances, electronic mentoring, and impersonations.
2. Information collections such as information exchange, database creation, electronic publishing, tele-fieldtrips, and pooled data analysis.
3. Problem-solving Projects such as an information search, electronic process writing, sequential creations, parallel problem-solving, virtual gatherings, simulations and social action projects.
This list was made before virtual reality, videoconferencing and curating. Creating web pages is so easy now, any child can do it. Blogging is required in my local school district in the middle school. I know of one student who did not do well in school, yet had created a world in Second Life complete with currency and culture. Technology is not an answer to every ill, but it is one tool that can be used to keep students interested and actively learning. Even a teacher who is not knowledgeable about technology can allow students to use it, or better yet, learn from the students. Assistive technology can help those students that are twice exceptional, too. As a parent of a gifted child, you may need to acquaint yourself with the many uses of technology to help your student.