On Giftedness, a Few Activities, a Little Fun and keeping the Spark Alive..
As New Zealand is celebrating its National Gifted Awareness week, and, as I am reading all the wonderful blogs on this, I am learning so much, especially that there are a wonderful group of folk out there all over the world with just a whole lot of great insights and information to share.. I have been wondering what I might be able to contribute.
I don’t profess to know all there is about gitftedness, although I grew up in a family blessed, or some would say cursed, with the same. I have attempted to navigate the often chaotic and bemusing arena (and the 2Eness 0) of parenting two of my own. I have certainly read widely and deeply on the subject, have gone back to school, and gained some recognition for my lived experiences and knowledge gained from hundreds of hours of ruining my eye sight in the interest of trying to find answers within often conflicting literature on the subject. I have often felt alone.
The thing is, and often, as a parent and then as a sometimes educator of teachers, I come back full circle to the realisation that if we can just keep the spark alive in these kids, even by just doing small ‘interesting’ things with them on a regular basis, letting them know we are aware of them and valuing their beings and abilities, whatever these may be, at whatever age, we are half way there in ensuring their inner survival. With this in mind, in this small blogpost, I share a few activities that may be of interest…..and which have met with some success in my world at different stages, brought some humour, happiness or some interest and perhaps learning along the way..
I don’t say they will work for everyone, that maybe someone else had the same idea previously to myself, or even that I take ownership of them.. I don’t, and at this point in my over fifties mind, I may honestly not recall even where or from who the idea came, mine or someone elses (if this is the case, I thank you whoever you are… ) or that there are not hundreds of other activities out there that are similar.
The main point is that perhaps they may be of use to some, and keep a kid happily moving forward, and this is the spirit in which they are offered..;-D
1. Riddle Treasure hunt
When the eldest of my children was very young, (I’m talking before he was one), I discovered him sitting at the end of the stairs, trying to write the letter A in uppercase with a crayon gripped tightly in his fist..At one and 5 months he was reading letters and small words from a car license plates. By the time he was two.. he had a love affair with maps, and was read pretty well, and was writing words like Continent, and Zimbabwee and North Carolina… all in uppercase, all Phonetically (although not accurately) spelled, with furious concentration. He did not sleep a lot, was in constant motion and had the world pretty much mapped out in his head.. he also loved numbers, memorizing the heights of the largest mountains, and the distances of the longest rivers… but most of all he loved being the centre of attention, all the time.. making it difficult for mom to get time for anything else, especially for the baby sibling that had come along right about then… So mom devised a devious plan which would occupy his mind and his body.. This game was so popular, it later also became a favorite of his sibling too, and the two (and their friends) for some years after would beg for it to be played. Perhaps it might work for some of you..
You will need
A child who can read
A prize (treasure) to be found… (I started out by using mini boxes of raisins), some kind of edible item works well, although you will know what takes your own childs fancy…
A facility for writing some kind of rhymes..(don’t worry if they are not publishable.. they just need to be fun, and descriptive)
- Take the paper, and cut it up into at least 20 pieces (for a trial) ..
- Identify a starting spot.. like you sitting at your kitchen table.
- Take another sheet of paper and pencil and go for a walk around your house and identify 10 places where you could hide a clue and that you could write a little rhyming clue about, and list those places from 1-10 on your paper (this is so if things break down in the middle of the game and child gets lost, you can help redirect them).
- Go back to your kitchen table and write at least a four line rhyme on each paper, and number them, for each place the child has to go to to find the next clue.
- Go hide them in sequence in each of the 9 spots…
- Hide the ‘prize’ in the 10th spot.
- Give your child the first clue, and then sit down at your kitchen table, with a cup of coffee, and enjoy the 10min-20min of peace this activity will buy you…
- Enjoy your childs excitement and joy when they come back to you having completed the treasure hunt…
- After this pilot, if all works well, you may decide to find ’20, 25, or even 50 spots around your house to write clues for and hide.. dependent on the amount of time you’d like them occupied…
- They get reading practice from reading the clue, mental excercise trying to figure the clue, physical racing around looking for the next one, and a happy thrill when they find prize… all for creating a good-mood baby.. ;-D… and smiles.
Variation: Add some math to the equation.
- Place two bowls on your table
- Walk around your house and identify 10 good hiding places for a small folded piece of paper, that you could write your rhyming clues about..
- Write ten number math, or math word problems (if your kid is up for them) on ten pieces of paper, and then hide them.
- Write ten rhyming clues on ten pieces of paper which each lead to one of the equations. Fold these up and place in one bowl.
- Hand child first clue.. they go find equation, bring it back to table, figure the equation out, place in second bowl.
- Pick a new clue out of first bowl, and go find second equation….
- When all equations have been done, and no more clues are to be had..
- Mom or dad hands child a final clue to where the treasure is…
- Of course a longer treasure hunt with many more clues and equations is also possible…..
A further variation is to make a letter to number key, using the alphabet and numbers, and link this to the resulting numbers from the given equations. When they figure out what letters they have, than they could try to assemble them into for example, A 9 letter place where fruit is kept…. (Apple bowl) and where they will find the treasure.
2. Let’s get lost!
There are times in our lives where, however much we would like to go to exciting places that cost money, we just do not have the wherewithall… During a low period in our lives, this activity proved to be inexpensive, and also popular as a ‘get out of the house and do something kind of thing.. however, I believe that it could also be done with small groups of school children too… and fit in nicely with problem solving and geography/working with direction..
You will need:
- A city/town map
- A mobile phone (for emergencies)
- A child/children who can read and like maps!!
Get in the car.. (or the school bus)
- Drive to a place you’re not to familiar with.
- Get out of the car/bus (don’t forget your map…
- Walk away from your parked car/bus in any direction, making sure to NOT to walk only in a straight line, for about a half an hour or so….. until you are completely ‘lost’…..
Hand the map to the child/children, identify the street you are on…. and let them help you ‘find their way back’ to the car or bus…
When you arrive… hand child/children a marker and let them mark out the route they found back to the base point. (car/bus)
Word of caution: Please make sure the area you intend on getting lost in does not border on a ‘dangerous area of a city or town… especially when with small children….
This problem solving activity helps with a sense of space, geography, map reading, sign reading and self-esteem confidence in finding/figuring ones way back from a ‘sticky’ place…. and is a real-time activity… also a good amount of excercise included too…They may be many things, places that could be discovered as well… a neat park… yummy cafe… a museum you did not know existed… cool architecture….
Once back at the car, if children wish… you could start out in another direction from the car… and do it again……;-D.
This can work with many age groups
3. Cross Connected Curriculum Days
It is the reality in many classrooms that differentiating for so many different needs within one room, can often lead to a child or children,, who do not appear to be struggling to be left to their own devises. Sometimes these students may actually be struggling to stay focused due to a higher than normal ability, and unchallenging/uninteresting work. This in itself is a need that requires some type of differentiation.
There are times in every teachers lives where they come across a child or children who may have an ‘intense’ interest and advanced knowledge in one or two academic areas perhaps far beyond their classmates.
I remember one year, when my very math (at that point in his life) oriented child was in primary school, and we were blessed with a parent friendly teacher. That year, I was permitted to run a ‘Math club once a week with other strong in math students… However, although this worked in a way, giving the teacher less students in her class for a period and time to focus on struggling students, it still left the difficulty of how to keep him on track during regular class time, as he was well ahead in a number of other areas as well.
. Well, we thought about it and devised a plan, which actually was quite effective for keeping not only himself, but a lot of the rest of class interested.
Every Friday – (Friday Fun day) the whole curriculum would be taught through a specific subject..using perhaps unusual/high interest/fun activities such as if it was math:
Chocolate chip math..
Breaking up chocolate chip cookies, counting the chips in different ones/brands.. averaging amount of chips per packet/brand and value per cost..
Build a Planet model out of clay and find out what the distance is between them (in real planetary terms), and between them and the earth, and the sun… and… and…. ..either on a board or hanging…..
A look at a great Mathematician, and their impact/contribution to the world.. such as Fibonacci and how his discoveries apply to the natural world and ourselves
Write a story about Ingrid the Inch worm and how she came to measure her world…
Art: Making tannigrams….
The following week it might be Friday Fun Science/or history/or English… day…
It was good as it allowed not only him to shine, but gave other students who had interests in these areas a bit of an immersion to, and hidden talents sometimes emerged, or new interests took hold..
Kids love to look forward to things, so even if it was only every other friday… it is amazing how much more enthusiasm was noted in most of the class during the lead up to the ‘Fun Days’…..
You will need:
One or two children or alternatively a few small groups of children.
A set of different shaped wooden bricks (blocks) (preferably coloured)
A set of index cards
Start the conversation around how it might feel to be sight challenged (blind), how one would need to go about giving a sight challenged person directions to do something they had never done before… what senses are important to a sight challenged person.
Explain that this game centers around one person wearing the blindfold, and the other person(s) giving directions to the blindfolded child on how to build the structure that is found on the Index card(s).
The blindfolded person must follow directions with their hands and find the pieces with which to build the structure.
The direction giver must use math shape terms, such as find a cuboid, rectangle, cylinder.. small, medium or large..etc.. they may use colour (although they will find this may be useless as blindfolded person cannot see the colours ;-D!)..
Once the blindfolded person has all the pieces, than they need instructions on how to build structure. Once structure is built, they can take their blindfold off and pass on to next person…
Finish game by reflecting on how it felt to be sight challenged and what senses where being used.
It is a fun way to learn math shapes/names. Also practice giving/taking directions.. Also practice trust and keeping cool. Not all children will have same skill or dexterity, so remaining calm, possibly controlling frustration may also be important learning moments. Understanding and gaining a respect for what it is like for a person who may be sight challenged, and what it might feel like to struggle to learn something you cannot see.
Well, I hope that this ‘small’ long winded blogpost might be of some use to someone out there… and if you have any ideas, or other good activities that would be fun to share, I think it would be fantastic for you to share them. Among the many folk within our global community, I am sure we must have at enough material for at least ONE or two volumes of Great Creative Activities for Gifted around the Globe… ;-D.
Let’s all share in our awareness.. in whatever large or small way, using our collective maps, to search out the right directions, to make this world a better place for our kids and ourselves… a treasure surely worth the effort.