by Martina Böckling
This article is the first part of a four-part practical report. All four parts together describe the advancement of little Jasmin, who is three years old at the beginning of the report and four years old at the end.
Due to her Tunisian roots, Jasmin struggled with the German language all the time, but nevertheless struck me very early on as being particularly gifted.
The first part of the report, which follows here, describes my observations at the beginning of the support project.
The other parts can be found here:
A 3-Years-Old Girl Wants to Write (German version)
Three Little Girls Are the „Mind Group“ (German version)
Giftedness is Not a Happy Problem
Jasmin caught my attention shortly after joining our group because she showed a high level of social skills that seemed unusual for her age.
Now 3;4 years old, she cares a lot about other children. She helps them, observes very closely, gets to know a lot about what is going on in the group, intervenes in disputes and can remember many things that even we adults have difficulties with.
For example, Jasmin always knows which lunch box belongs to which child. We adults can’t remember because the children always have different lunch boxes with them, sometimes they even look similar, and on some days the children also have bread bags from the bakery.
If a lunch box cannot be assigned, we only need to ask Jasmin.
Jasmin notices when a child needs help and then helps immediately, even if she is busy herself.
She has high standards for her „works“, whether she is painting or doing handicrafts. She works very precisely and exactly, she is not always satisfied with the result, then she throws these „works“ into the rubbish.
Very often, Jasmin turns to the older children; she observes them and as soon as an opportunity presents itself, she makes contact. She seeks help from the bigger ones, but also offers her help when she thinks she can or knows better. Jasmin loves to listen to the older boys showing great patience.
She prefers to play table games alone or with an adult. When she plays with her peers, it is noticeable that she dominates the game.
She doesn’t put up with anything from the other children and asserts herself.
If Jasmin notices that a child is being teased or bickered with, she immediately comes to us and lets us know. If we don’t understand her, she drags us to the children in question and wants the situation resolved with our help.
In order to find out whether Jasmin has an above-average giftedness, I read through the Indicators of Possible Intellectual Giftedness and also filled out the „Gelsenkirchen Development Guide“.
Through intensive observation in the group during gymnastics and in the outdoor area, I noticed after completing the „Development Guide“ that Jasmin is very well developed in the area of „social skills“. With a few exceptions, her social behaviour is in the range „5 ½ years to school entry“.
Her fine motor skills are around 4 ½ years old and her gross motor skills are also well advanced.
Only in language she is not yet so far developed, which is due to the fact that Jasmin did not know a word of German when she came to the kindergarten at 2;8, and then she had to learn it. She talks a lot, very fast and is sometimes not understandable.
Her cognitive development, according to the development guide, is sometimes difficult to assess. Jasmin is definitely developed according to her age, but the problem with many points is that she does not understand the task, and this may also be due to her lack of knowledge of German.
First indications of a particular giftedness
I observed Jasmin a lot to find out where her abilities and talents lie.
In doing so, I found some correspondences in the Observational Chart by Joelle Huser:
Re A 1.)
General developmental advantage, great interest in letters and numbers:
Jasmin, like all the other children, has noticed that there are always so-called round robin slips in our kindergarten, which we read through and sign in order to pass them on.
One morning she takes two pieces of paper, draws something on them, comes to me and explains that she has to take them away.
To my question: „Where to?“ Jasmin answers: „To Agnes“ (that’s the head of our kindergarten). Later I found one note on the desk in the office, the other in the kitchen on the sideboard.
When she comes back, she gets a shoebox, cuts off small pieces and draws the same signs on it again. When I ask her what she is doing, she explains that she has to write everything down. Then she runs back to the office, puts down one of the cardboards, draws new ones, takes them to the kitchen, cuts out new ones. The whole thing drags on for over an hour.
There are rain trousers on a cupboard in the hallway and a note that says: „Whose clothes are these?“
Jasmin stops at the cupboard, takes the note, mumbles to herself and asks me, „What does it say?“ I read it to her, she repeats it.
All the children and kindergarten teachers sit in the morning circle. While we teachers are using our song folders with the song texts, I see that Jasmin is sitting down with a piece of paper that she has drawn and written herself and keeps looking at it while singing.
Re A 2.)
Quick perception and curiosity:
Sitting at the table with another child and playing the matching game „Flocards.“ Game description see here: Interesting Games.
Jasmin joins us and wants to work on it too. When the child has finished, Jasmin sits down in his place.
I explain to Jasmin how the game works and she puts two pieces down correctly. Along the way, she listens to what the other children next to her are talking about. She comments on what the children say and again puts down two pieces correctly. Then she gets up, goes to the windowsill, looks at the magnifying glasses that are lying there, comes back, and puts the pieces in the right place again.
This is the first time Jasmin has played this game and I have also played it with other children of a similar age, they did not understand the game.
Since we visited Cologne Zoo months ago, Jasmin has been showing us the animals we saw in books. She can name them, has also remembered details that she can tell us.
In our project „Journey around the world“, the children learn a lot about the country they or their parents come from. Jasmin listens with interest, this day it is about Turkey. She says: „Everyone comes from other countries. Berkay and Umut in Turkey. Me Tunisia.“
Re A 3.)
Orientation to older children and adults:
Most of the time Jasmin chooses adults to play table games with. Very rarely she plays with her peers, occasionally with older people and often she plays alone.
Melisa, a child who will enrol school in this summer, wants to work on a worksheet with the other pre-school children. The preschool children present start working.
Jasmin also wants a worksheet, I give her one that is still left and observe what happens. It is a sheet with different shapes: Circle, triangle, square, which are to be cut out.
Jasmin sits down at the craft table and cuts out a piece, goes to the big ones and watches them.
She comes back, continues cutting while standing and says, „Like this!“ She puts pieces in front of her, goes back to the big kids, watches them, comes back, cuts and stamps her feet. She is apparently not satisfied with the result, crumples up two pieces and throws them into the bin.
Afterwards she cuts out another piece, gives it to me and says she’ll be at school soon.
Course leader’s comment (in IHVO Certificate Course):
It looks like she has compared herself with the older children and realised that she can do all that these children do. Her conclusion to come to school soon as well is logical.
The prospective school children go with me to the perception room, Jasmin wants to go too, she says, „Me too big, going to school soon.“
I sit down at a table with the observation folder to write something down, immediately Jasmin comes with a piece of paper and pen, sits down with it and starts to „write“. When I look at her, she smiles at me and says: „I’m writing too“.
Re A 4.)
Amazing memory ability:
Jasmin plays the game „Cha memo“ with a trainee, this is a picture search game. You turn over cards and have to find a card with a chameleon in matching colour to a depicted object.
Although Jasmin keeps getting distracted, keeps looking around and listening to what is happening in the group room and also comments on it, she manages to win this game.
Course leader’s comment:
Apparently she had not yet reached her upper performance limit; because she did not make any mistakes and did not have to concentrate fully for that. If it had been really difficult for her, she would probably have focused her attention more on the game.
We are sitting in the building corner, about to start a morning circle, when a colleague finds a so-called ziplock bag there. None of us three adults knows where the bag came from. I say to my colleague: „Throw it away.“ Jasmin says very energetically, „No, bag“. She runs to the toy cupboard, picks out a game and says, „Look!“, takes the bag and puts the game pieces in it. Then she puts the game away.
Re A 5.)
Long attention span and strong self-motivation:
When Jasmin is interested in something, she has a long attention span and wants to complete the task as well as possible.
Example: Making a globe.
The children make a globe out of papier-mâché and paint it blue. Then they paint the continents green. Finally, we put a cut-out man on the globe before it is hung up. This work takes three days.
Jasmin works very carefully, so she works longer and more extensively on the globe than all the other children who took part.
Nevertheless, she notices everything that happens in the group room and comments on it as she works.
Re A 6.)
Critical attitude towards one’s own performance – high demands on oneself.
Jasmin judges her work very critically. If she doesn’t like something, she tries to improve it or she throws things away.
Example: Jasmin colours a mandala; then she looks at how Melisa and Kaynat have coloured their mandala (both are budding schoolchildren), takes her mandala and throws it in the rubbish.
In Jasmin’s gymnastics group are the younger children. They are all playing with balls. Jasmin notices after a short time that she can throw but not catch.
When the trainee throws her the ball, she turns away and says, „No, not like that.“ Then she throws the ball and says, „Like this, I will.“
At lunch she realises she can’t cut the meat, she tries for a moment, then gives up and leaves the meat.
Re E 1.)
Particularly good observation and perception skills:
We are in the outdoor area, Jasmin comes running with the hood of a jacket and calls for me. I ask her who the hood belongs to and she says: „Umut“. Then she runs across the whole outdoor area with the hood in her hand and looks for the boy.
Maxim, a new child, doesn’t know where to put his lunch box. Jasmin notices, takes him by the hand, pulls him to the shelf where the lunch boxes are and says: „Maxim, here.“ A short time later, when he wants to have breakfast – Jasmin is having breakfast herself – she gets up and gets him his lunch box.
Jasmin sits at the table and kneads. At the breakfast table, a child has not put his plate away. I ask, „Who ate breakfast last?“ Jasmin answers, „Cansu“.
A couple of three- and four-year-old children are sitting at the painting table. Denise is sticking buttons on a sheet of paper. She spreads a lot of glue over her sheet and the buttons don’t stick. Jasmin sees it, goes to the shelf with the craft supplies, cuts off a piece of paper, goes over to Denise and puts the piece of paper on top of all the glue. Then she pulls it off again and says: „Like this“ and goes back to her place, visibly satisfied.
Amanda sits pale on a chair, Jasmin looks at her, goes to her and asks, „Amanda, sick?“ Amanda nods and points to her head. Jasmin comes to me and says: „Martina, Amanda sick, headache.“
Re E 2.)
High capacity for social adjustment:
It is noticeable that as soon as Jasmin is with children of the same age in the group, she sometimes hides her light under a bushel.
Amanda asks for help with her puzzle, Jasmin also does the puzzle and says: „I can’t either“, although she has done this puzzle many times before.
Sameer has difficulty putting away a game, Jasmin now also fails to put away her game and also asks for help.
Re E 4.)
Strong sense of justice – high sensitivity:
Sameer is scolded for not tidying up the building corner. Now Jasmin comes to my colleague indignantly and scolds her in turn: „Sameer doesn’t have to clean up, Berkant does.“ She had noticed that Berkant had cleared out the things.
Lisa’s nose is running, she doesn’t notice. Jasmin gets her a handkerchief and gives it to her.
The five-year-old boys get into an argument about who can go to the gym. Berkay is excluded by the others, he starts crying. Three-year-old Jasmin goes up to them and says, „Berkay can go to the gym, Berkay is crying.“
Jasmin is scolded by a colleague because she has been playing in the doll corner but it is not tidy. Jasmin starts to cry. It turns out that Jasmin cleaned up a lot by herself while the other children watched. She left the rest for the others.
I could give many more examples of the last points (E), but I have to limit them for reasons of space.
I want to find out more about Jasmin
Jasmin came to our kindergarten 11 months ago, at that time she couldn’t speak a word of German, she had to learn it first. She quickly acquired German skills, can find her way around the group and interact with the children and us kindergarten teachers.
Very often she still uses two-word sentences. When we teachers ask her more precisely because we don’t understand her, it can happen that she stops talking and seems unsure.
I have noticed that Jasmin is good with terms but refuses to talk in complete sentences, she often talks in sentence fragments.
I would like to find out if Jasmin is afraid to speak in front of the others, if she can’t do it or if she doesn’t use her skills.
To do this, I wanted to try to have a longer conversation with her. The day before, I had read the three-year-olds a picture book story of „Bobo Siebenschläfer“, this is a picture story with very few and simple texts from the children’s sphere of life; the children told what they saw in the pictures.
Since Jasmin likes to do things alone with me, I plan to go into the next room with her and talk to her about the story again in peace and quiet, without her being distracted by what is going on in the group.
Jasmin is aware of so much that is happening around her that I hope she will talk a lot more in the next room if it is just the two of us looking at the story again.
In the next room, Jasmin takes the book and turns the pages. I ask her if she can still remember the story and she mumbles something to herself that I can’t understand. When I ask again, she says, „Girl sing.“
I try to motivate her to talk again, but when she stands by the window and starts singing, it is clear to me that she has no interest in talking about the story.
She sits down again, grabs the book, flips the pages and says, „Drop Bobo“ (she means a mug of cocoa that Bobo dropped) flips through the book some more. I repeat her statement, she smiles at me.
Now she shows me the page with the information about the author and says: „Read it“.
I read a little about the author, Jasmin takes my pad and pen and starts drawing.
I ask: „What are you doing“? Her answer is: „Writing“.
„I’m writing: all the children there“. She draws signs and says, „Berin da, Berkay da, Yusuf da, Amanda da.“ She lists the names of all the children who are there.
She continues drawing and then says, „Sameer best friend, Denise best friend, Amanda too.“
Then she counts „1, 3, 5, 7“ and says, „All the children there.“
I point to a sign and ask, „What’s that called?“ She promptly replies, „Amanda.“ I point to another and she says the name: „Sameer“. Then she shows me where it says „Martina“.
Now she wants me to write too. I write down a few names and Jasmin looks at me, smiles and says, „Good.“
Evaluation and interpretation of the observations
Jasmin was neither interested in talking about the story nor in hearing a new one.
She decided that she wanted to do something else and showed me that she notices very precisely which children are present in the group and that she would like to write this down.
I did not achieve my goal of finding out whether Jasmin can also talk in complete sentences, but she showed me once again how good her observation skills are and that she has a great interest in writing.
Through the observations, I noticed that Jasmin has high expectations of herself.
She avoids all things that she feels she cannot yet adequately cope with.
Jasmin’s command of the German language was not such that she could talk to me about the story, so she quickly deflected and picked up what she was sure she could handle.
For only learning German for a few months, she can already do it well, but I suspect she perceives how well the other children speak German.
I think the whole situation was a bit unfortunate. Jasmin did enjoy going into the next room alone with me, but she didn’t want to talk about the story. She deflected, and when I responded, she showed me her observational skills. She counted up all the children present without being able to see them and wrote down their names.
„Writing“ gives Jasmin a lot of pleasure, she is the only child in our group who makes an attempt to write the children’s names. You have to remember, she is only 3;4 years old.
At the same time, it became clear to me: What Jasmin doesn’t want, she doesn’t do. I have experienced this behaviour when dealing with the mother, in the kindergarten she has not shown it yet.
Comment by the course leader:
Perhaps Jasmin also „smelled a rat“ and felt that she was being put to the test. An alternative strategy could have been to deepen a thread of conversation which she in turn picks up. In any case, a strong tendency towards self-determination is evident.
Further course of events
One day later I played the game „Ratzolino“ with her and Amanda.
There are small wooden objects on the table, such as car, carrot, squirrel, etc., not so common terms – and Jasmin was able to name them all. I told a little story in which the objects appeared. Jasmin and Amanda were supposed to quickly take the objects as soon as they were named.
Of the 17 items, Jasmin grabbed 14.
I didn’t expect that, Jasmin knows a lot more terms than she shows us in everyday life. I suspect that we often underestimate her and also underchallenge her.
I will take this into account in the next offers.
I had a surprising experience three days later. I sat down on our sofa in the reading corner. Immediately Jasmin came, grabbed the book „Regenbogenfisch“ (Rainbow Fish) and sat down with it.
She showed me the first page and said, „Rainbow fish, lots of scales.“ On several pages she showed and told me what she saw.
This was the first time Jasmin had taken a picture book and talked about it. Maybe my picture story did contribute after all.
In summary, I can say that we will have a few more surprises with Jasmin, and I am looking forward to that.
Date of publication in German: 2015, February
Copyright © Martina Böckling, see imprint