by Hanna Vock
When you examine your group with regard to the question whether there might be one or even several gifted children among the group, it is a good first step to gather all hints that point towards a higher intelligence or even giftedness.
You, or you and your whole team, can make use of the Indicators of Possible Intellectual Giftedness. While you are going over the individual points you may have situations come to mind in which you were marvelling at specific actions or utterances of a child that correspond to these >indicators< – moments that later got lost in the turmoil of everyday life.
It is often a child’s verbal skill that strikes us first. At the same time there are gifted children whose verbal skills are average, yet they manage to express quite extraordinary thoughts with their unexceptional verbal means. And outstanding non-verbal behaviour can be rather indicative too.
In any case you should not forget to ask your colleagues what they find striking about the child in question.
The observational checklists you are using for all children at your kindergarten can be a sound basis for recognizing children whose developmental stage is well beyond average. But if you stick to the usual grid you may overlook a gifted child here and there. As it happens, giftedness often comes with non-conformism and a plain refusal to cooperate.
While some gifted children like demonstrating their skills others tend to keep low key – particularly during their first weeks and months – assuming “the position of an observer”.
If you look at the article Communication here in our manual, and also at the following articles, you will understand that it is especially the first days and weeks which determine whether a gifted child will trustingly open up, or opt to hide the peculiarities that come with its giftedness.
It is therefore wise to pay close attention and conduct a formal initial observation during the first weeks of a child’s attendance at your kindergarten.
Just when all the new children are entering kindergarten
– that’s exactly when I don’t have any time for the focused observation of an individual child!
It is certainly not easy! (I have worked in a kindergarten myself for 10 years and I am very critical of the working conditions at many facilities.) On the other hand you may save yourself a lot of trouble if you manage to address a child appropriately (in accordance with its cognitive development, that is) right from the start.
The initial observation may include all Modes of Observation.
After having gathered all assessments and specific observations that have so far been made it gets really exciting!
Now the Observational Chart by Joelle Huser should come into play in order to investigate what exactly the strengths of the child are. Evocative observations are very useful for this enquiry. You can find examples for such observations here.
At the appropriate time in the process the Questionnaire for Parents – First Term in Kindergarten can be put to use too. You can use this chart as a guideline for a parent consultation as well. It is available in several languages here in our manual to accommodate parents who feel safer in a language other than English.
You may want to avoid the term giftedness in the beginning when talking to parents, which is rather advisable (see: Making Careful Use of the Term Giftedness).
In this case I recommend that you cover the headlines of the questionnaire when making copies for the parents. These headlines are important for us in our training courses, not so much for first tentative talks with parents, who themselves are not yet certain about their child’s degree of intelligence.
The initial observation is but a first careful attempt to assess a child’s possible giftedness.
Later, in the course of Custom-fit Cognitive Advancement, which includes adequate involvement in projects and an on-going dialogue between the kindergarten teacher and the child, the strengths, interests and the extraordinary potential of the child become more visible – and can be named and addressed more adequately.
In our IHVO-trainings we work on the skills for focused observations (aimed at detecting high abilities) and have them implemented with due regard for the given situations. This implementation happens in the framework of the first of five practical assignments to be completed by the participants of our courses.
The Examples of Initial Observations listed in the manual are excerpts from some of these papers.
The participants were expected to choose one child from their group whose potential they considered well above average (possibly a gifted child). These are often children who have been at that kindergarten for a while, as it would be rather peculiar if precisely at the beginning of our course a young gifted child happened to be accepted at the particular kindergarten of the respective participant.
Irrespectively of our courses, this is how it is going to be for any kindergarten that decides to devote more attention to gifted children:
The first consideration is: for which of our children might this be true? Then these children will be observed more closely to substantiate or disprove the initial assumption, and to adapt pedagogic actions to the result of the observations. Certainly and sensibly, observation should be followed by fosterage and consecutively the two should be entwined and nourish each other.
Date of Publication in German: 2009, August
Translation: Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock