GIFTED EDUCATION NEWS-PAGE
VOLUME 16, NUMBER 3
Published by GIFTED EDUCATION PRESS; 10201 YUMA COURT;
P.O. BOX 1586; MANASSAS, VA 20108; 703-369-5017 www.giftededpress.com
"We are always looking for the book it is necessary to read next."
Saul Bellow (author, Nobel Prize winner in Literature)
Acceleration for Gifted Learners, K-5 (2007) by Joan Franklin Smutny, Sally Y. Walker and Elizabeth A. Meckstroth. Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA.
In his 1961 book, Intelligence and Experience, the outstanding developmental psychologist J. McV. Hunt (1906-91) said that the major problem of teaching was to find the proper match between the difficulty level and quality of the curriculum, and the student's ability and motivation levels. He later elaborated on the "problem of the match" in the Introduction to The Montessori Method (Maria Montessori, 1964 revised, Schocken). Hunt used the works of both Montessori and Piaget to show that the educational match could be achieved by using models and theories of early childhood education and mental development. As a result of attaining the optimal educational match, the student would become intrinsically motivated to learn school subjects. Acceleration for Gifted Learners, K-5 is a detailed and humane resource for achieving the proper educational match between the curriculum and gifted students' ability levels, interests and motivation. The authors are experienced writers and educators in the gifted field who have previously written many useful books, e.g., Teaching Young Gifted Students in the Regular Classroom (1997). The major impetus for their current resource is A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students (2004) by Nicholas Colangelo, Susan Assouline and Miraca U. M. Gross. This report emphasized that public schools can improve their education of the gifted by implementing a wide range of acceleration options, not just the grade skipping approach which traditionally has been the sole means for accelerating learning.
Smutny, Walker and Meckstroth have expanded upon A Nation Deceived by showing teachers, administrators and parents specific acceleration practices and choices designed to optimize gifted students' elementary school education. To achieve their goals, the authors have addressed important areas of these students' educational needs in three sections - Part I: Acceleration: Issues and Applications for Gifted Learners (K-5); Part II: Appropriate Academic-Classroom Acceleration; and Part III: Social and Emotional Aspects of Effective Acceleration. Each section includes several chapters which discuss issues concerned with: acceleration and the K-5 gifted child, and acceleration as related to differentiation, creativity and assessment (Part I); acceleration of content, thinking, product development, and standards of learning (Part II); and obstacles to acceleration, personality factors, facilitating acceleration, social relationships, and facilitating acceleration for parents and educators (Part III). There is also an extensive bibliography related to gifted education and acceleration. The chapters on social-emotional factors in effective acceleration discuss persistent issues concerned with the student's unique personality characteristics, emotional maturity and learning styles. These chapters are an important indicator of progress in the gifted education field because they: (1) emphasize that the student's learning is dependent on many other factors in addition to those measured by traditional ability and achievement tests; and (2) provide an excellent resource for teachers, psychologists and parents to use when considering the most appropriate type of acceleration necessary for a gifted child's overall development and learning.
In the Introduction Miraca U. M. Gross says, "The essence of acceleration is, in my view, a developmentally appropriate curriculum married to a developmentally appropriate placement." (p. X). Smutny, Walker and Meckstroth have clearly demonstrated how this match can be achieved for gifted students, thereby giving practical application to J. McV. Hunt's educational ideas. Their book also provides many examples of how differentiation can be used in conjunction with acceleration. This is an important step in resolving over forty years of sometimes rancorous debates about the merits and demerits of each approach. The emphasis on amalgamating acceleration with differentiation is most clearly illustrated in Chapter 2, Acceleration in a Differentiated Classroom, which gives many examples for moving beyond compacting, tiered instruction, mentorships and independent learning towards a challenging accelerated curriculum. Additionally, the authors include other examples of this accelerated-differentiated curriculum in science and language arts for specific students in grades two and four.
What makes each chapter unique is that numerous case studies and practical classroom examples are used to thoroughly illustrate methods and prescriptions; this is where the authors' years of teaching and administrative experience help teachers to understand how they can apply acceleration methods in a realistic and effective manner. Their statement about how acceleration should affect gifted students is the guiding principle of the book: "In whatever form it takes, acceleration should be a quickening of the spirit as well as a challenge to the mind. To quicken is 'to make alive, vitalize, excite, and stimulate' (American Heritage Dictionary, 1985). For students given a telescoped, hands-on math curriculum or advanced to a higher grade, the experience has an element of exhilaration and even joy...." (p. 17). All educators and parents interested in the progress of gifted education should read and apply the pedagogically enlightening and inspirational ideas presented in Acceleration for Gifted Learners, K-5.
Inspirational Quotations for Teachers and Students
Albert Einstein (1879-1955).
Most teachers waste their time by asking questions that are intended to discover what a pupil does not know, whereas the true art of questioning is to discover what the pupil does know or is capable of knowing. 1920.
It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks. 1921.
Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) President of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1951, innovator in higher education - particularly through his Great Books of the Western World Program.
My idea of education is to unsettle the minds of the young and inflame their intellects.
The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.
It sometimes seems as though we were trying to combine the ideal of no schools at all with the democratic ideal of schools for everybody by having schools without education.
Adler, Mortimer J., Editor (1990). The Great Conversation: A Reader's Guide to the Great Books of the Western World. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
Calaprice, Alice (2005). The New Quotable Einstein. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Einstein, Albert (1982). Ideas and Opinions. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Winston Churchill: Gifted Leader, Speaker and Writer
Michael E. Walters Center for the Study of the Humanities in the Schools
". . . .Finally, readers will see narrative and philosophy are presented in The Great Democracies through Churchill's considerable writing skill. This skill included allusiveness, subtle insight into human character, a briskness in pace, a shrewd use of analogy and simile, and an ability to be vivid and to stimulate the reader." Introduction written by William Gallup to The Great Democracies (1958, Barnes & Noble edition) by Winston Churchill.
Sir Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965) is universally recognized as one of the major personalities of the twentieth century, and his leadership of England during World War II is considered to be an outstanding example of political statesmanship. The speeches he delivered to his nation during the London Blitz are among the best given by any leader. In 1953 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Among this literary output were the four volumes entitled, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (1956-58). This essay will stress the first volume, The Birth of Britain (1956), and the fourth volume, The Great Democracies (1958).
Churchill perceived history as being dramatic narrative and political philosophy. He started his career as a journalist combatant writing about personal war experiences in South Africa. His sensibility is similar to the American president, Theodore Roosevelt, who was another writer of action, history and political philosophy. Churchill constantly develops conceptual insights in his narratives. One of the major chapters in the first volume concerns the Magna Carta, the beginning of the parliamentary monarchy in Britain. The term Parliament has its linguistic roots in Norman French, i.e., "parler" or a formal discusion. Thus, kings agreed to "talk things over" with their subjects. In the first chapter of Volume I, Churchill describes Britain's resistance to the Roman invasion and occupation (55 BC-410 AD). Although the British assimilated the positive values of the Roman civilization, they kept their national identity and integrity. Throughout the four volumes of his history, he always brings conceptual understanding to his narrative. In The Great Democracies, he discusses the impact that Daniel Webster's speech had upon a young man named Abraham Lincoln. It ended with the phrase, "Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable." (p. 128). This speech later influenced Lincoln's major goal during the American Civil War to preserve the Union. Churchill also emphasizes that although Lincoln won only forty percent of the vote in 1860, the majority of Americans voted for candidates who supported the preservation of the Union.
Gifted students can sense a role model in Churchill. Despite his lifetime affliction of mental depression and certain learning disabilities such as dyslexia, he prevailed in both literary and political careers. He was willing to face political reversals for his beliefs. In 1938 two Western Democracies, England and France, were enticed towards appeasement of Nazi Germany. When Hitler threatened Czechoslovakia, British and French diplomats went to Munich and signed a peace agreement with Hitler. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin returned to England, waving a piece of paper that represented "peace in our time." Chamberlin at that time was perceived as the savior of Europe and Churchill was said to be a war monger and alarmist. After World War II, it was Churchill who warned the world about Stalin's "Iron Curtain." For Churchill, the brutal occupation of Eastern Europe by Stalin's lackeys was a threat to world peace in a manner reminiscent of Nazi Germany. It is in Churchill's writings that we see the ability to translate historical narrative into major public policy.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, February-March 2007