Jerome Practises Writing

by Arno Zucknick

 

I came to the IHVO Certificate Course as a career changer. Though I was not unfamiliar with the topic of giftedness, I was more aware of it with regard to youths and adults. In order to take part in the course I was required to spend one day per week (for 2 years) at a kindergarten for practical work experience. I did so along with my usual work load as a freelance teacher in adult education, and I worked in two different kindergartens consecutively. This is how I familiarised myself with the age group 3 – 6 years while learning how kindergarten work “goes”.

 

… in a nutshell …

A 3-year-old is interested in writing. The author works one or two half-days per week at the little boy’s kindergarten and regularly takes out half an hour to support the little boy in his learning endeavour.

The progress the boy makes is astonishing, and so is the joy and the playful ease with which he explores writing.

I was well accepted into both kindergartens. There was no monetary compensation for my work but a few of the colleagues in the team showed interest in the topic and supported my projects.

Jerome speaks well

Jerome (3;8) caught my attention the very first day. He was the only one who answered the question about his name and age in a complete and correct sentence (“My name is Jerome and I’m 3 years old, too.”), while other 3- or 4-year-olds would say their name and then show their age with their fingers.

His verbal skill sticks out. Without difficulty he casts his thoughts into compound sentences with main and subordinate clause. All the while his speech is fluent, not like that of many others in the group who, as very small children often do, need to take a breath in between parts of a sentence.

After a few games and talks with Jerome and a talk with his parents I started spending half an hour with Jerome alone on some of the days I was at the kindergarten. The rest of the time I was dealing with the group as a whole.
The topic presently on his mind is writing, so that is what we are doing together.

My pedagogic approach to working with Jerome

The fact that we are working together is not a result of Jerome’s wish to do so, but it was my initiative. Thus I find it important to remind myself not to hold up any didactic expectations. My work is result-oriented only in the way that I intend to offer an activity that is fun for Jerome and that addresses his present interests. Furthermore I aim to be as attentive as possible and observe him as well as myself closely. He can quit any time and has no obligations whatsoever. It will always be up to him whether we do something on a specific day and spend another 30 minutes inside, while the other children are already outside playing.

I also want to avoid any kind of teacher-student scenario. We will be dealing with the topic playfully and the focus is on the shared activity, where the older and more experienced part only stands by the younger one’s side providing some hints and suggestions here and there while letting the younger one lead.

Our sessions did not take place on each and every day I spent at the kindergarten. Sometimes I was in another group, on some of the days I was under the impression that Jerome just was not quite up for it, or the day’s schedule was so tight that he would have missed out on getting to play outside during the first half of the day if we had stayed inside. Jerome has a normal desire for physical activity and our activities were not to get in the way of that.

Our first sessions

Since Jerome also loves drawing, it usually went like this: we would draw a picture on a freely chosen subject and add corresponding words to the sketch. At the first session it was his friend’s name ‘Felix’ that interested him. He was already able to write it. So Jerome went ahead and made a drawing of Felix and added his name in writing. I drew my own picture of the two of them with the clothes that they were wearing that day and wrote their names on top of the figures. Jerome then added the names on my picture in his own writing and also wanted to write my name on it. I wrote it for him to see and he copied it. Up to now we have been writing in capital block letters only.

Right at this first session I noticed that Jerome sometimes writes in mirror writing, apparently without being aware of it. I pointed it out to him avoiding to call the wrong direction in which he was writing ‘wrong’, but instead used the term ‘mirror writing’ and showed him, that you see the word in mirror writing correctly, when you hold it up against the light and look at it from behind the sheet. That blew his mind. He had written my name correctly and, when I proposed that he write it in mirror writing, he did so without a mistake on his first attempt. I found that amazing, especially with regard to the ‘N’ in ARNO.
We also discovered that for some of the letters it does not make any difference which way you write them. Mirror writing stuck around for a while and I kept pointing it out to him when he had used it again.

At that same first session it also emerged that he was able to spell the words he was writing correctly. He did so, without having to be prompted, every time after he had written a word. And he pronounced the letters correctly when naming them, for example “enn” for “N” instead of the pure nasal “nnn”. I was officially impressed.

Topics that came up in the following sessions included “pirates”, “underground” (train), “names of other children in the group”, “owl”, “elephant”. When we were working on “pirates” I was once more reminded of his large vocabulary when he called a sword I had drawn with a curved blade “a sabre”. During the same session he explained to me how a plane starts, namely that it has to roll and accelerate on the “runway” first and then finally “lifts off”.

When dealing with the “underground” (train) he was fascinated by the corresponding street sign with the letter “U” cut out in white. This negative-method of writing a letter by drawing its outlines and colouring the background, leaving the letter’s inside untouched and thus white, really tickled him.
We then did the same thing with the “S” on a green backdrop, as appearing on the “S-Bahn”-sign (S-Bahn = Stadtbahn = city railway). That was a little trickier but he would not be discouraged.

At a further session we had newly bought plastic letters with magnets attached to them. When I laid the words “mama” and “papa” he first said “I can’t read that” (as written words they were new to him), but then he managed to read them by deciphering the letters one by one. He was visibly having fun figuring something out that was unknown to him. Then he wanted to lay words and had me read them out to him.

He proceeded to laying extremely long imaginary words, using up the entire alphabet, and had me read them out. It did not bother him a bit that the words I vocalised were no real words. On the contrary, he was excited to see that any given combination of letters could be read out and thus be turned into sound. And was he having a ball listening to the funny sounds that emerged and watching me twisting my tongue!

Due to room shortages we had to do one of our sessions in the dance and gymnastics room, so we took all our writing and drawing materials with us. However, this day Jerome did not feel like writing so much, he had trouble concentrating. Maybe it was the different room with all its many objects and musical instruments lying around.

That day he seemed to be up to something else: he wanted to test me. He began by playing around with the instruments and at one point even ran out of the room, as if to check whether I would come running after him. And then there was Robert, a boy from our group, showing up and distracting Jerome. I suggested that it might be a better idea to just quit for today and go playing outside; he thought so, too. In the dressing room he took up the topic himself, wondering who else in the group might have a name that starts with “J”. So he climbed on the bench and worked himself through all of the coat hooks, reading the names on them. He identified the names of Josephine and two or three other children from the neighbouring group.

Our sessions usually lasted 30 to 45 minutes. Then we always went to join the other children outside.

Results and observations

After the first seven sessions I made a preliminary assessment. The work with Jerome had been great fun for me. He himself had looked into reading and writing and learned to write a few new words.

The simple fact that Jerome had not lost interest along the way is a major success for me personally. The playful approach is not my forte and I do not experience myself as very imaginative in that respect. I tend to grasp subject matters more on an analytic/abstract level which makes exercises and repetitions tedious for me. Consequently I do not easily come up with creative tutorial ideas on a child-like level.
It was therefore quite adequate to have Jerome lead the way, simply going along and throwing in a piece of advice or giving some help here and there. This approach appears to have worked.

Jerome showed great sensitivity in some moments, especially when he was under the impression that I wanted to test him, as for example when I would ask him to tell or explain something because I wanted to see whether he had really understood it – these were occasions when he acted with great self-determination, clearly deciding for himself how far he would go with that.

It was mostly I who initiated the individual sessions. As far as I can remember he only once brought it up himself and asked “whether we were writing again today”. At the same time he never turned the offer to do some writing down. Jerome shows hints of the typical characteristics indicating giftedness; for example his complaint that he often feels disturbed in his present activities and he would wish for a room where he can withdraw.

The shared times have intensified Jerome’s and my relationship. We are quite close and he considers me his friend, which I’m very happy about.
For the future I wish our trusting relationship develops further and we both keep having fun and being inspired by one another.

Jerome wants to learn reading and writing for real, but playfully

At our last session I asked Jerome whether he wanted to learn how to read and write “for real”, which he did. The parents had told me that he often joined his brother (1st form) in doing his homework assignments from school, so I considered it just the more to be the right time to work on the alphabet with a little more structure and focus.

For this I created a little folder with separate sheets for each individual letter. In the upper right corner it had the respective letter – large and only in outlines – to be coloured, then the main section was free for a drawing and underneath there was space and a line on which to write a sample word that started with that letter.

We would like to point out the very nice TINTO Letter-Booklet,
See: Picture books, Storybooks, Non-Fictional Books and Stories

In the recent past there have been signs of jealousy and animosities between the children in the group because of my increased focus on Jerome.

I had a talk with Jerome and we managed to come to some agreements that would ease the problem – one major part of the deal was, that I would offer activities for the whole group along the line of cognitive advancement.

More about this particular problem and my talk with Jerome see in:
On-on-One Advancement, Mentoring

In the meantime it has been Jerome’s 4th birthday.

The folder I had prepared and which Jerome and I call ‘primer’ has been well accepted by Jerome and we are working with it. Interestingly and surprisingly for me, it is not the drawing part that Jerome is mainly interested in. He largely focuses on writing. In our more productive sessions his concentration is astonishing and oftentimes he will write long compound words like “Jagdfieber” (hunting fever) “Haferbrei” (oatmeal). He does need some help here and there, but on the whole he writes the words very much by himself, he will occasionally ask whether he has written something “the right way around” or not (mirror writing) and then he always wants me to read the word out to him.

The words we chose to write usually come up during our conversations at the beginning or they are from what he tells me about his life. “Oatmeal”, for instance, came up when he told me that he had eaten a humongous bowl of oatmeal that morning.
Another time he tells me that his mother had told him about how she used to cross the border entering the “DDR” (Deutsche Demokratische Republik = German Democratic Republic/GDR). Now he wants to know what that means – DDR – and how to write it. I spell it for him and he writes it. The “D” immediately catches his attention because “it is almost like a T” (the sound of it) and then it cracks him up that the “T” is in itself the whole word “tea”.

He still enjoys the long imaginary words consisting of chaotically arranged sequences of letters, which I have to read out. Sometimes he writes them, sometimes he lays them using the magnet letters, which we have been using in almost every session ever since we got them. Most of the time these words contain long sequences of consonants which can hardly be pronounced and it is hilarious for him when I try to articulate them. Consequently we keep running into the problem that it cannot be done.
When I took this as an opportunity to tell him about the difference between vowels and consonants and asked him to squeeze in a few vowels he did so without hesitating and got it right without any further help.

After the first 7 sessions there has been a new observation:

Jerome initiates the sessions

It has been noticeable that Jerome, if we haven’t done anything in a while, starts urging me that ”today we write again”. He appears to find the sessions stimulating and he demands this activity quite explicitly if the last session seems too have been long ago.

The sessions generally are the more productive the more unstrained they are. Jerome will become clumsy and demotivated the more I try to structure the session and work systematically on the alphabet. That is how after two more sessions with the primer we are no further than the letter “C”, even though he already knows quite a few more letters and even uses them. I keep having to remind myself that there is no “test to be passed” and that I can legitimately go with his intuitive and playful approach.

Gifted people often have their very own ways of learning, which do not necessarily follow any conventional learning strategies.

Jerome gets to know the entire alphabet

For three months we have been working ourselves straight through the alphabet using the primer, and we are now at the letter “S”, where all the other letters have come up on the way by now, because they were part of the sample words we had dealt with in connection with previous letters. It has taken us 9 sessions to get there.

It is fair to say that Jerome has by now got acquainted with the entire alphabet including the umlauts. He uses the word “alphabet” as if it were the most natural thing to do so at his age.

In the recent past the occasions on which other children wanted to join in on a session have become fewer, which has had a positive impact on Jerome’s concentration. I assume that those who had joined in realised that it just was not for them to be working on letters all the time and to be so focused.

It is a pity that there are not more children in our group who share the same interest in focused work on the letters. It would have been much better for Jerome. This way we were stuck with the one-on-one scenario.

See: Integrative Focus Kindergartens for the Advancement of Gifted Children

Throughout all our sessions I was able to observe Jerome continuing to work with undiminished interest and great concentration. Oftentimes he virtually stormed through the primer “completing” one letter, then the next.

And he showed great imagination in finding corresponding sample words and never avoided long words. For the letter “N” he chose “Nussschokolade” (nut chocolate). “D” made him think of “Durst” (thirst) and he quickly noticed that, while “Durst” was easy to write, how could it be drawn? His solution was: a glass of beer. And he could then even write the word beer on the glass.
Peculiarities as for instance the sibilants (hissing sounds) “ch” and “sch” (engl: sh) or the principal occurrence of a “U” after a “Q” did need explanation but were then used correctly, no further help necessary.

It was so refreshing to experience his readiness of mind. One time he wrote an “S” in the middle of a word in mirror writing, and I vaguely pointed out to him that there was something wrong with the word. He immediately identified the “S” as the culprit, held the sheet up against the light looking through it from the back, and said: “That’s the right way!”.

When working on the “Q” he had chosen the word “Qualle” (jellyfish). The direct progression from “L” to “E” gave him the idea that the “E” is simply a combination of “F” and “L”. We then explored more such “letter combinations” as in ”P” being a part of “B” or “R”.

Jerome knows how to learn now

In the course of the project he developed a number of learning strategies all by himself. For example, every sheet he made outside of the primer he would insert in the primer together with the corresponding letter sheet. When writing new words he would research certain letters by going back through the pages.
Another strategy was to try a letter which he knew but was not sure about on a separate sheet first and have me confirm it. Only then would he transfer it to the sheet in the primer. If – as sometimes happened – there was not enough space to finish the sample word he would just start writing around the corner by rotating the sheet.

All the while he kept surprising me with his large vocabulary. About the jellyfish he told me that it had “Tentakeln” (tentacles), and before I knew it he was writing the word “Tentakeln”.

He also liked making use of alternative ways of writing, as with the plastic letters, which would be laid out to form words on a magnetic table, or the newly bought board with embossed letters that were hatched on the surface so that they could easily be transferred onto paper by rubbing a pen on the sheet while holding the sheet down on them. All of these materials he handled with the greatest of ease. At the same time he clearly felt when it was time for him to make the move and play outside. He would say so clearly, and the session was over.

What has been achieved?

Unfortunately my work with Jerome had to come to an end. With regard to the requirements for the Certificate Course I had to move on to another kindergarten to broaden the basis of my practical work experience.

I had the chance to talk to Jerome’s mother at the Summer Festival. She spoke very positively of my work with Jerome and thanked me for it. He had liked it and she, too, was of the impression that it had done him good. Since he did show a very curious mind at home, too, she was sure it had been a very valuable activity for him.

From my point of view the shared time has been beneficial for both of us. It will certainly have been a good thing for Jerome to get the attention and to focus on a major interest of his while being competently accompanied. I would conclude this from the fact that – aside from the first few sessions – the sessions were always initiated by him.

With my help he has successfully learned how to write (if only in block letters for the time being); mow he can take it from there all by himself.

See also: One-on-One-Advancement, Mentoring

 

Published in German: June 2012
Copyright© Arno Zucknick, see imprint
Translation: Arno Zucknick

Kindergarten Teachers Supporting Children in Learning How to Read and Write

Many gifted children are interested in letters and subsequently in reading and writing long before they enrol at school.
See also: Examples of: Early Interest in the Alphabet and in Reading.

The following accounts were given by some of the pedagogues who attended our Certificate Courses and demonstrate how the children’s impulse to deal with letters can be seized and supported.

All children’s names in the accounts have been changed.

Florian, 6;1, and Other Children

by Susanne Höfl

 

I work in different groups in our kindergarten and for my Certificate Course I have chosen Florian to be the child I will be observing. He is now 6;1 years old.

The way I experienced Florian at first and what I was told about him, you can read here:

First Attempts to Approach a Difficult Child. (In German)

In order to get to know Florian better the questionnaire we had been introduced to in our IHVO-Certificate Course (“Interessenfragebogen für Kindergarten und 1.(2.) Klasse” [Questionnaire on Child’s Interests to be used in Kindergarten and 1st(2nd) Form] by J. Huser/U.Stednitz -published in Huser) came in really handy. It was to become the basis of my 2nd Practical Assignment and served as a guideline for the interview with Florian.

… in a nutshell …

The author conducted the interview on the basis of the Questionnaire on Child’s Interests for Kindergarten with several children and describes how Florian responds differently from the way other children do.

During the interview I could once more observe Florian’s learning speed beside his already evolved reading skills: he immediately took a pen and began reading the questions.
His answers were then articulate and to the point, he never had to ask about the meaning of a question. His ‘professional’ approach to this interview and his eloquence made me curious to see how other children of comparable age in our kindergarten would respond to the interview and then compare this to his performance.

Comment Hanna Vock:

With regard to our further training this was an interesting and enlightening. The results once more show that the questionnaire has been designed especially for bright and gifted children and that it is an appropriate tool to use when working with them.

Florian’s ability to ponder thinking itself keeps amazing me.

Florian’s answers are different from those of other children

The ways in which the other children tend to answer the questions seem to be similar, while Florian distinguishes himself clearly by his knowledge and his mode of going about the interview.

He shows a strong interest in the specific activity ‘interview’ as such, the other children are interested in doing something together with me. I read out the questions, Florian reads along/ reads himself, he immediately understands the questions, he shows ‘structured knowledge, a comprehensive system’ – with the other children I have to read out he question really slowly and then give them some time to fully grasp the content of the question.

I could clearly feel his strong inner craving for knowledge (he kept wanting to set the pace, kept wanting to work faster and wanted more all the time …). The other children would wait to see what I do, they would content themselves with the pace I set and entirely relied on the inputs the adult gave them.

Florian shows a kind of ‘perfectionism’. He tries to express precise, complete knowledge in his answers, the other children answer with caution as I am used to with children of that age.

How we have come to understand Florian better

It emerged from the talks with Florian that he disposes of a highly developed moral sense and that he is quite aware of his outstanding ability and intelligence.
His great sensitivity leads to considerable complications in everyday life in kindergarten and at the same time it causes him grave inner conflicts. For example, he often couldn’t seem to get it right with the clothes he was wearing: if he got too hot, he would take his sweater off, forgot where he left it and then couldn’t stand it, when he couldn’t find it again. He got really angry, felt offended, said it was all our fault and kept voicing this throughout the rest of the day.

When playing board or parlour games he would manoeuvre himself into an awkward situation: he had his eye on the interactions in the group, wanted to participate in all conversations around the table and still win the game. Having to manage all this ‘perfectly’ put him in a difficult position.

Unfortunately, before our training course I did not know what to make of all this …, yet, Florian began to feel much better as soon as he was ‘identified’. His problems ceased when his regular kindergarten teacher Sandra was around. He felt taken seriously and often asked me if I wanted to play a game with him (mostly games from the after-school care club).

In our conversations we frequently hit upon philosophical questions, and he loved discussing philosophy with the teacher from the after-school care club and with Sandra, too. I, in turn, was in constant exchange with my colleagues on the topic of his possible giftedness and the appropriate measures of advancement.

Today I am aware that Florian had had a very high sensitivity from his early childhood days on. Dabrowski explained this intensity by his concept of ‘over-excitabilities’ (OE), which constitute an enhanced perception and hence intensified reactivity to stimuli of all kinds.

(Dabrowski’s concept is described in the article: Gifted Children and Exceptional Emotional Sensitivity.)

Today I see that Florian had shown an intellectual over-excitability as early as in his third year: he asked investigative and critical questions, he exhibited great ability in intellectual pursuits (with extended periods of concentration and perseverance), he reflected on thinking itself. Such thoughts he could only share with his friend Eileen (5;3 years then). Later he found himself an even more potent counterpart: his regular kindergarten teacher Sandra.

Even the parents answer the questions in the questionnaire … and respond

Florian’s father came all the way from Berlin to our kindergarten in Cologne, where we had our last parent consultation before the family was going to move to Berlin. For a broader basis of our discussion I first asked them the same questions I had asked Florian in the interview.

We carried on our conversation in a very pleasant atmosphere and I came to know that Florian had shown strong interest in the PC at age 2;5, that he had begun teaching himself how to read at the age of 3, that he can grasp abstract ideas quickly, likes speaking about technical topics and that he got along with his younger sister very well.

To that day it had never occurred to the parents that Florian might be extraordinarily talented or even gifted, they had just been bewildered by his choice of friends – 8 and 11 years old.

After the consultation Florian’s parents found him a more adequate elementary school.

Published: January 2012
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint
Translation: Arno Zucknick

Marcus, 5;8 Years

by Margit Bernsmann

 

With regard to the observations, conversations and activities I had conducted with Marcus and because he wished to talk to me alone, I have decided to do the Questionnaire on Child’s Interests.

In this process Marcus can decide on the tempo and the procedure himself. It took us four mornings altogether, which includes the time spent playing some games that he had brought to our sessions.

Even though he was a little unnerved by some questions he thought were pure repetitions of previous questions, on the whole he enjoyed the sessions and would remind me of our planned activity early every morning. He then waited patiently until I had taken care of the day’s most urgent business (being the manager and exempted from direct childcare duties) and was able to turn towards our joint work on the questionnaire.

And this is how the interview went:

He finds it hard to deal with the question, what his favourite playing activity is. He keeps digressing and speaks about home and his little sister and other things. Finally he answers shortly:

“The magnets game.”

And what else?

“The Eskimo game, I got it for Christmas.”

There is no more explanation. After a little while of reflection he asks me whether he would be allowed to bring the games and play them with me alone. Of course, that’s what we do.

The magnets game is a set of little magnetic sticks and spheres which can be assembled in a multitude of ways and calls for interesting and experimental playing. The way I see it, this game requires very abstract thinking and great joy in experimenting for a pre-school child. Additionally some knowledge about magnetism or at least the readiness to learn about it is needed. Marcus would not let other children join in on the game for fear that some of the tiny parts might get lost.

The Eskimo game, a strategy game, he played only with me alone at first. It seemed to give him great satisfaction to be able to explain the game to me, here he was the expert. Subsequently he did play it together with his friends and again enjoyed being the proud owner and expert of the game.

Upon the question who he likes to play with the most he names four children, who are just about to enrol at school. It is quite obvious that he has hardly any contact to younger children, and it can be observed that he frequently seeks the company of children from the after-school care club.
However, he does deny when being asked whether he has a special friend.

He answers the question what he likes to collect:

“Trash for crafting! I took the cardboard box from the computer and the styrofoam, that was in it, and built a slide with it in our garden and then I did experiments with it.
And I have a shark’s tooth from South Africa, it was just lying around there on the beach, now it’s my treasure.”

Marcus considers himself a good climber.

“You know, I have a thick rope and I tie it to my swing and make many knots – a slip knot wouldn’t work, it would come loose.”

Next thing is an expert talk on different knots and the highest mountain in the world.

And he wants to become better at climbing:

“Get better at climbing. We have a magazine at home and I always look into it. I can’t read yet, but it would be nice if I could.”

What’s your favourite activity in kindergarten?

“Digging in the sand, building houses and digging for foundations.”

What do you not like about kindergarten? And Why?

“That I can’t hit anybody.”

Marcus gives me an impish look when answering, he has noticed my questioning look and explains:

“I don’t really want to hit anybody at all, but sometimes there is no other way.”

What is difficult for you in kindergarten?

“Nothing.”

Is there anything that often bothers you?

“That children take things away; I go to the toilet and, before I know it, something is gone.”

Being asked what his favourite book is and what he likes about it, he answers:

“Oskar, the Easter Bunny. I think it’s funny and nice. The bunny destroys half of the world in order to build a house. I want to build houses when I grow up.”

Marcus is a great construction artist. He experiments with different building blocks, currently he is examining the workings of a lever.

What are your favourite shows on TV and on the radio?

“The ‘Sendung mit der Maus’ [Show with the Mouse – an educational children’s TV show in Germany], because you can learn so much.”

What would you like to learn?

“How to write. I can read already.”

Write down or draw something that you have done and that made you really proud of yourself.
This task was put off by Marcus and it is yet to be done.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“A blacksmith, like in ‘Bibi Blocksberg’.”

[A German Children’s book series, also a TV show.]

You meet an old woman who knows everything about the world and about life. What would you ask her?

“If she could teach me how to write.”

What else?

“How the air gets up to the sky and whether there are angels – but I don’t really believe that, that’s just what parents say. Nobody can live in the sky.”

Imagine a fantasy animal and make a drawing of it here. What do you call it?

— Dickschwänzer: Bigtail —

After some initial problems to get into the questions Marcus loosened up over time and made use of the time spent with me and enjoyed it. It was he who chose the place for our meetings: it was the office that seemed appropriate to him – regarding the importance of our activity.

 

Published in German: January 2012
Copyright © Margit Bernsmann, see Imprint
Translation: Arno Zucknick

Jonas, 6 Years

by Beate Kroeger-Müller

 

Jonas is 6 years old. I interviewed him by use of the „Questionnaire on Child’s Interests„.

He answers the question “What do you like playing?” by naming a game he has made up himself, a role playing game:

“The Two Magical Cats”.

The answer to the next question, “What are you really good at?” is the same:

“The Two Magical Cats”.

The games Jonas comes up with are often very imaginative. His playing ideas are original in the sense of unique in a way that I have not seen before. His oftentimes naïve and easy-going contents of his playing ideas lend an air of the unconventional to his role playing games. The multitude of ideas itself, which he comes up with on a daily basis, is remarkable.

These imaginative games are a substantial basis for the further development of creative processes, in which Jonas can implement his imagination and his speech even more.

The question what he wants to learn he answers like this:

“Languages – with a foreign language and my own language I could make up a secret language.”

In the language department Jonas is definitely ahead. He disposes of an extraordinarily large vocabulary for his age. His speech is expressive elaborate and fluent. He experiences a rare joy in all communicative processes. He is quite aware that his “being able to talk” is out of the ordinary and he likes to make use of it wherever he can.

Jonas’ entire attitude towards new things, that might interest him and stimulate him intellectually, is exposed in the answers to the following questions:

„What would you like to get better at?“

“Arithmetics!”

When asked what bothers him he answers:

“Baby stuff like the sandman.”

„What is your favourite book?“ Answer:

“Christ Child’s Journey, because there they describe Christmas the way it’s supposed to be.”

„What do you like doing best?“

“Looking into books if they are interesting or exciting for me.”

„What is your favourite show on TV?“

“Die Sendung mit der Maus [The Show with the Mouse – German educational children’s TV show], they always show funny, new and interesting things.”

„What is your ‘question on life’?“

“How the world has been created and what else comes from this world.”

Jonas wants to understand the world and its structure, he wants to get behind the meaning of it all – and with all his senses, if possible. He is not satisfied with simply taking a good look, he puts all his curiosity and enquiring mind to getting to the bottom of things. He is on a quest for answers to issues which deal fundamentally with his relating to his own life and to the world. He wants to discover and explore what nature gives us – what is ‘naturally given’.

Jonas does not learn primarily for the accumulation of knowledge. He tries to make imaginative and creative use of his knowledge to illuminate a phenomenon. His thinking is versatile and lets him rethink or change perspectives swiftly and easily.

When asked “Who do like playing with the most?” he immediately names his best friend Jonathan (5;8). And then, after quite some time, he hesitantly names Torben and Melvin (both 5;4), with the addendum:

“… if it works out ok.”

What was difficult for you in kindergarten?

“Playing with the other children, because I only know how to play right with Jonathan – and in (…his hometown…) I have only a few friends.”

My question, what else he would like to learn in his last year at kindergarten, he answers like this:

“How can I learn to play right with the other children, too, so that I can have more friends?”

The way I see it, for 6-years-old this answer shows a great measure of self-reflection and a solid and realistic self assessment in conjunction with a deep yearning for more friends and long-lasting relationships with them. More than ever Jonas is suffering from the problem that he does not quite seem to really get into the game with other children and this increasingly makes him feel lonely. What Jonas has to learn is to distinguish between self-assertion and social behaviour so that he may be able to adjust his conduct as the given situation requires.

Jonas is well aware of his strengths, and he knows to articulate his weaknesses, too, as in the case of the question:

„Is there anything that really bothers you?“

“It bothers me when another child gets into the space where Jonathan and I are playing.”

One reason for social problems may lie in his advanced verbal skills. Jonas will soon dominate the course of a game being played, or he changes the plot, the rules and contents of a game which other children have begun, without involving them in the process. Until now Jonas has not been able to understand that this is not how you make friends, even though he is always trying to improve his speech and expression to explain things even better.

He tends to experience a larger group (for instance a group of 4 or 5 children romping around outside) as threatening and he feels he has to defend himself.

These assessments have led to the idea of a project:
Making Friends in the Researchers’ Club.

 

Published in German: February 2012
Copyright © Beate Kroeger-Müller, see Imprint
Translation: Arno Zucknick

Drawing Course with Linda

by Silvia Hempler

 

One of the girls in my group (Linda, 5;0) has come to my attention.

She disposes of good verbal expression and keen perception. She talks a lot and enjoys doing so, tries to direct the other children’s playing situations, such as role-play, and has great difficulties adapting herself. She sticks out, due to her relatively poor social behaviour.

Her mother reports that Linda could distinguish left from right at an age of 2. Her preferred literature at that time were the reference and text books of her father, who was then undergoing an RN-training. The other kids in her nursery group had to experience quite a few fisticuffs, because they wouldn’t play doctor the way Linda had told them to.

 

… in a nutshell …
Linda, a bright girl that has just turned 5, will not only learn to draw figuratively; she will also make a range of valuable social experiences, thus bringing her a step closer to her desire of being more popular amongst the other children.

After working with Joelle Huser’s observational chart, I would like to highlight the following aspects:

Linda has command of a large vocabulary. She reports, for example:

„My mum wants to help other women give birth to their babies. She teaches them about how their children lie in their tummies and what to do, so they are born healthy.“

At the moment Linda is learning Polish. She often asks me to tell her special words, so that she can translate them, or she lists words she already knows and translates them.

She doesn’t make any grammatical mistakes and expresses herself well.

She is also rather quick-witted, never at loss for an answer, both in positive and negative situations.

She often comes up with logical explanations, giving grown-ups the impression that she feels superior to them, being seemingly unfazed by consequences of her bad behaviour. She will say something like:

„… and what’s that supposed to be good for?“

I’ve also noticed a particular mathematical-logical intelligence in Linda. For example, in a conversation with me about the size of craters on the moon, she asked me spontaneously:

„Are craters as wide as a thousand skyscrapers?“

She is able to add in steps of 5 and will only accept to do puzzles with 100 pieces.

Concerning her special interests and activities she spends most of her time with:

Firstly, there are her parents‘ professions: RN and midwife. She seems to be constantly learning from her parents‘ experiences.

She is also very interested in horses. She knows the entire terminology around horses, riding and care-taking of these animals.

She also ponders matters concerning our universe and space.
Once I showed her why the moon isn’t always full with the help of a book, she immediately understood, looked at me and said:

„Is that all?“

At the moment, she is collecting information explaining the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Next to her special areas of interest and exceptional abilities, I’ve noticed how Linda lacks empathy and attention for the interests of her peers in age.

Example situation:
Her friends are busy doing craft-work. Linda will continuously interrupt them, until they finally give in and join Linda in that role-play in the doll-corner, she wants to play.

She may even tend to support her goal by scribbling on her friends‘ art-work, just so they will give up their current activity.

It is of course a good thing, not a bad one, if a small girl can be assertive, and Linda is to keep that character trait. Yet, it would be good, if she learned some better strategies.

Please note the article: Girls Having Their Way (in German)

Linda shows no inclination of adapting to a (social) situation or holding herself back. Whenever she doesn’t get what she wants, right then, she will turn aggressive and start hitting the other children.

Example situation:
A child says: „I don’t want to hear that song. We want to dance.“
The child gets a stuffed toy dog beaten around its head.

Linda wants to be the leader of the group. She always has ideas and knows how to organize well. Yet, she lacks consideration and a collaborative mindset, and uses her (leading) position for her own interests.

She has a great sense of justice, but here also, her own interests will always stand at the centre of her attention.

She will say „I’m sorry!“ to any form of criticism.
This is her method of trying to avoid any further arguments on the matter. She’ll turn red in the face and her eyes will well up with tears, and the normally talkative child will only be able to reply with „yes“ and „no“. Insecurity is written all over her face. It can be quite difficult to build her up again, then. Often, she’ll turn very quiet for some time, or she’ll say what the adult wants to hear, being extremely friendly.

„Can I clear the table?“

(She hates clearing the table.)

The team again and again has doubts as to Linda’s higher intelligence, because she tends to hide her abilities very well.

Also note the article: Concealing Abilities and Interests.

Based on all my observations, I am nonetheless convinced, that Linda has special abilities, which have to be supported and stimulated during her time in kindergarten.

 

Unfortunately, my own professional abilities – just after the 1st seminar-phase (IHVO-Certificate Course) – seem not to suffice in this extremely challenging situation.
Her weak social interaction abilities seem to preoccupy her so much in group situations, that she doesn’t find time for other activities. She seems to be trying out different strategies, without coming to the intended result, for which she always sets rather high goals. But these are all only assumptions.
We may also not be offering her enough inspiration, in order for her to reach a certain level of contentedness.

After the 2nd seminar-phase, I decided to offer Linda a drawing course, in order to meet her interests, and to support her social integration into a small project group. She was supposed to have an opportunity to practise, improve and develop her behaviour towards the other children, and simultaneously acquire a new skill.

My ideas are:

– the drawing-course,
– exhibiting the children’s art-work inside the kindergarten,
– constructing a game,
– visiting an arts exhibition.

We used the book „Für kleine Zeichner“ (For young artists).

 

Reasons for planning this project

By means of focused observation, and by watching her in every-day situations, I have noticed, that Linda evaluates her abilities and deficits by checking them with the adults.

Her abilities in figurative drawing, for example, were poor, leaving her quite frustrated, but she would keep on saying:

„I did that well, didn’t I?“

Since she was using one typical tone-of-voice of hers when she said that, I decided to offer her help and constructive criticism instead of offering praise. I could immediately sense her positive reaction and gratitude. She let me help her and stayed by my side for the rest of the day, continuously asking me questions.

So, that was when and why I decided to offer a drawing course, in order to deal with two matters at once. Since Linda, as mentioned before, also lacks social interaction abilities, often comparing herself with the other bright girl in the group, Sandra, and showing hardly any interest in other playfellows, I picked a wide variety of characters as participants of this project.

The group is made up of
– a Turkish boy, who just simply wants to learn and be productive,
– a girl of average potential with little self-confidence,
– a gifted girl, who has serious problems with her motor skills and her emotional stability,
– two boys of average potential, yet highly motivated and always keen on new activities,
– a talented Turkish girl with poor language skills, who can draw very well and is otherwise extraordinarily developed,
– Sandra and
– Linda.

Luckily, I managed to motivate all the children I had chosen to take part in the project. Partially because they were interested in drawing, partially, because the children knew that I myself enjoyed drawing. They liked most of my drawings, which appeared to make me expert enough, in their opinions, to instruct a drawing course.

The constellation of the group appeared especially favourable to me, because it combined a broad collection of very particular character traits, and I was hoping for great social learning possibilities for all participating children, especially for Linda. I wanted her to experience, that the others had great abilities as well, and that she would reflect her old behaviour mode (If the other children don’t do as I want, I’ll hit them) and find new approaches.

Her self-confidence (I’m allowed to make mistakes) was to be strengthened. She was to be introduced to new fields of interest and supported in this.
Since I was in charge of monitoring the group without interruptions, I was able to work with reasonable impact and actively assist in difficult situations.

We began by drawing a person

The book mentioned above helped us a lot. Its clear shapes and simple line drawings let the children soon experience success with their artwork.

At first, we drew the simpler person, shaped a bit like a matchstick man. In the next attempt, we added a neck and a face, then a shirt and some trousers, and finally hands and shoes.
We spent about two weeks dealing with the human body and varying details.
During the entire period, Linda felt visibly comfortable within this group constellation. She watched very closely and attentively, and seemed to have understood that other children can be scared as well, and also, that they have weaknesses and strengths, just like she does.

This realisation process did not go about without conflict, but Linda learned that her drawings were not worth any less, because we didn’t put the last drawings in the folder, where we usually put them, but actually hung them up in the hallway of the kindergarten.
For this occasion, Linda and I designed a poster to direct the parents‘ attention to the group’s artwork, which it did, and due respect was paid along with plenty of praise for all of the children.
During the drawing course, the children realized, that writing is probably just as important or useful a skill as is figurative drawing. Writing, they realized, was also a form of communication, with which they could earn praise and gain attention.

Their own names on the drawings thus gained importance and, besides drawing, little samples of writing were generated.
During this time I discovered a game at a trade-fair, which combined both skills: drawing and writing.

 

Game Instructions:
There are cards you lay out, small symbol-cards, as well as letter-cards.

Each laying-card shows a picture resembling a word, for instance, a ball.
Each symbol-card shows a (small) picture resembling the first letter, for instance a bear stands for B, an ant stands for A, etc.

First you turn over a laying card, for example the ball-card. Then you try to lay out the word with the symbol-cards, and finally you match the correct letters underneath, so you have written the word BALL.

You can play different variants of the game as well.
Possible versions:
– Find other words (than those on the playing cards) and try laying them in letters,
– Use only symbol-cards or only letters,
– write out the words (with a pencil),
– make sentences out of words.

I introduced this game to the children and asked them to construct a game like it themselves. They were motivated by the fact that the drawings had to be realistic enough for most people to recognize, or else the letters couldn’t be matched.

So, this is how we went about it

We would think up a word and sketch the matching letter as well as a drawing for it. Each child had a task in the project, either making a drawing or writing the matching letter on a little card. Afterwards, the tasks were switched – those who had first drawn, would then write and vice versa.

Finally, each child had to create a bigger card, combining the drawing and the letter. During this phase of the project, we would turn to using the drawing-instructions-book, pictures and special books with lots of images as well as a table of the letters of the alphabet as aids.

Results

For me, the most important result of the project was, that it enabled an all inclusive learning process. Each child of the group experienced a form of success.

The gifted children were very motivating for the others, due to their drive, enabling them in turn to performing quite respectably, as I thought.

During the entire project, I never had the impression of asking too much or too little of them.
Linda’s progress with drawing a horse: Phase 1-3
Linda’s results:

 

    • Linda has learned to show her abilities. Especially referring to the horse-drawings. She helped the other children find words and let me help her design a poster together with her, on which she wrote all by herself.
      The other children saw that Linda could read, and accepted it as something completely normal, so that Linda herself could also accept that she had this ability.

    • The pictures and the books with images offered interesting topics, which Linda could work on as well (dinosaurs, insects).
    • She immediately understood and used the first-grade alphabet table.
    • Linda also understood that she couldn’t always force her opinion upon other children. Yet, understanding doesn’t imply being able to put this lesson into practice. She is still working on it and every now and then she actually succeeds in maintaining her self-control.
      I have had many conversations with her and given her examples from her own experiences and situations she would judge as negative. The teamwork sessions during the project did the rest, after all, Linda does observe closely.
    • Linda has also learned to let Sandra do her own thing. Because of the alternating tasks, both girls couldn’t always work together. During the project, I was able to have conversations with both girls on the topic of friendship, realizing they had quite different views on it. Linda has understood that Sandra needs more space and freedom and will now sometimes even let her do things alone (e.g. have breakfast).

Sandra is a very versatile, multi-talented girl, who is very popular, due to her extremely good social behaviour. Linda wants to be loved as well, and being able to accept herself just the way she is, remains a great challenge for her and it will require a lot of support.

She is on her way now, finally. But her self-esteem is still quite low. She needs time in order to cope with her year-long experiences (I’m different and people don’t like me like that), and re-evaluate, re-arrange and classify them anew.

We should pick up where we left off in our last parent talk, which we had after the first seminar-phase. With them I would like to figure out what Linda’s needs are, and find out how she can realise her own plans and dreams.
Topics for the talk could be:
– What does Linda really want and need?
– What are the things she does only to get attention and praise?
– What could our kindergarten offer her, in order to support her, to enable her to use her skills, so that she gets the recognition she deserves?
– Which tasks and chores can she be in charge of at home (You are important)?

 

Last, but not least:

The children are still very interested in learning how to draw. They frequently grab and use the aforementioned material in their free-activity time.

At our last meeting of the drawing course, we talked about visiting an arts museum in Wuppertal (North-Rhine Westphalia) in order to study different techniques and colours. We went there and took part in a tour for children.

A local artist from Remscheid, Wolfgang Petermann, invited us to his craft-shop and showed us his etchings – and since he was crafting on the root of a tree at the time, we decided to try it out ourselves at the kindergarten.

Linda continues to need support building up her self-esteem. I have noticed that I get through to her best, by directly confronting her with a matter, finding words for her feelings and going into conversations with her.

Linda will need further opportunities to work in small groups, in order to practise her social skills and also to learn to control her reactions.
We will also make a conscious effort to include her special abilities into our daily schedule, so that she gets more positive feedback.

 

Date of publication in German: May, 2011
Copyright © Hanna Vock, siehe Impressum
Translation: Sonia Wagner / Arno Zucknick

 

Elternberatung etabliert

von Heike Miethig

 

Es läuft endlich! Ab Juni 2013 kann ich jetzt jeden Monat vier Familien und die zugehörigen Erzieherinnen außerhalb unseres Kindergartens zum Thema Hochbegabung beraten, und zwar während meiner Arbeitszeit. Wie kam es dazu?

Die Vorgeschichte

Vor Jahren beschloss die nahe Aachen gelegene Stadt Alsdorf, in der ich lebe und arbeite, ein Projekt „Soziale Stadt Alsdorf“ und stellte dafür Gelder zur Verfügung. Für dieses Projekt gründeten die verschiedenen Träger von sozialen Einrichtungen einen Verein. Er heißt ABBBA (Alsdorfer Bildungs-, Beratungs- und Begleitungs-Angebote) und die Stadt arbeitet eng mit ihm zusammen.

Bereits auf der Gründungsversammlung stellte ich unseren „Integrativen Schwerpunktkindergarten für Hochbegabtenförderung“ vor und schlug vor, ein kommunales Beratungsangebot für Familien mit hoch begabten Kindergartenkindern zu schaffen. Die Beratungsarbeit wollte ich gerne während meiner Arbeitszeit übernehmen.

Ich erntete schallendes Gelächter, ich wurde geradezu ausgelacht (ein blödes Gefühl), denn Alsdorf sei ja schließlich sozialer Brennpunkt. Als sich alle wieder beruhigt hatten, stellte ich die Sache fachlich dar und die Stimmung änderte sich.

Nach etlichen weiteren Sitzungen ist das Thema inzwischen völlig akzeptiert; es heißt sogar: „Wir haben alles – von der Schuldnerberatung bis zur Hochbegabung!“

Das Beratungsangebot

Seit Juni 2013 kann ich nun die Räume nutzen, die ABBBA gemietet hat, und 4 Beratungstermine anbieten. Zwei Termine liegen vormittags, die anderen beiden nachmittags von 16.30 bis 18.30 Uhr.

Dafür dass ich in der Kita vormittags fehle, bleibt eine andere Kollegin länger (es wird ja refinanziert), die Nachmittagsstunden werden durch Freizeit ausgeglichen.
Bezahlt werden von der Stadt 6 Stunden, so dass ich neben den vier Beratungsstunden zwei Stunden dafür nutzen kann, die Kitas der betreffenden Kinder zu besuchen, mit den Gruppenerzieherinnen zu sprechen und mit ihnen gemeinsam einen Plan zu erarbeiten, wie sie vorgehen können. Bisher waren alle Kolleginnen sehr konstruktiv eingestellt, die Zusammenarbeit habe ich als ergiebig empfunden.

Die Nachfrage läuft gut an. Im Juni nahm zwar nur eine Familie die Beratung in Anspruch, im Juli waren es aber schon drei Familien. Die Eltern wirkten am Ende der Beratung auf mich erleichtert und manche geradezu beglückt. Ein Vater sagte: „Mein Gott, Sie sehen das mit der Hochbegabung ja total positiv!“

Falls die Nachfrage steigen sollte, ist auch eine Erweiterung in Aussicht gestellt.

 

Datum der Veröffentlichung: Juli 2013
Copyright © Heike Miethig, siehe Impressum.

 

 

 

Children’s Questionnaire on Communication

by Hanna Vock

 

This questionnaire has been put to the test in our Certificate Courses. It keeps amazing us what a clear assessment of their situation gifted children have.

The questionnaire can be helpful when trying to find out how the child is feeling as a member of the group with regard to its communication with other the ??? children.

Of course, you can also use the questionnaire as a guideline for interviews or parent consultations.

See also: Communication in Kindergarten

For Print-Out: Children’s Questionnaire on Communication

 

    • Make sure the child understands:
      – marking the smiling emoticon confirms the statement, while
      – marking the grumpy emoticon negates the statement.
    • Do keep in mind, that bright and gifted children often dispose of rather differentiated thinking. The child might want to answer in more detail than provided for by the emoticons and the occasional dotted lines.
    • Do make notes of the child’s additional remarks, which may be to qualify, modify, specify the answer … or to criticise the statement.
    • Make notes wherever remarks are made.
      Take your time and try to use the statements as starting points for further conversation.
    • You can complete the questionnaire together with the child in several sessions over a few days, too.
    • With very young children or children with poor language skills try to observe the child closely and then answer for the child to the best of your judgement.
    • As soon as you get a full picture of the child’s communicative situation try to support the child in critical situations in everyday life in the group.

 

Published in German: July 2013
Copyright © Hanna Vock
Translation: Arno Zucknick

The translation of this article was made possible by
Renate Ashraf, Koblenz, Germany.

Advancement through Projects

by Hanna Vock

 

Free play, open activities, excursions, working in small groups, activities for the whole group – all these are important features of pre-school education. Yet, especially for the advancement of gifted children, working in projects is indispensable.

To me, learning in the course of a good project is the supreme discipline among all learning methods.

Why?

1.
A project has a goal in the here and now. It is not ‘learning for some later time’.

2.
Learning in projects has something in common with doing research: something new is being discovered, a new problem is being solved.

In research a problem is solved which is new to mankind and is as of yet unsolved.
In learning a problem is being solved that has been solved by mankind, but not yet by the individual. For him it is new and therefore represents a challenge.

All human beings keep learning for as long as they live – some more so, some less.

3.
A project can be conducted by one person alone or together with others in a group, but not aside from each other (let alone against each other).

4.
A project has a beginning, a history, an arc of suspense and a result. This makes it an experience and an adventure instead of boring as is ‘swotting’.

5.
A project goes through troubles and crises which have to be overcome in order to bring success. Trying different approaches is helpful and is being practised.

6.
In a project several individuals contribute ideas, there is exchange and enrichment (in the form of knowledge and differing approaches).

7.
A good project is an “inter-disciplinary” project, that is how it broadens horizons.

 

… in a nutshell …

Project work is not rare in good kindergartens. Projects provide all children with good learning opportunities. Gifted children are in urgent need of project work.

This article gives reasons and lists features of good projects. In addition there is a catalogue of questions which are useful for the planning, quality control and evaluation of a project.

Also included: a list of project documentations featured in this manual.

8.
A project also serves to promote secondary virtues like commitment, perseverance, focus, endurance.

9.
The result of a project can be presented to a larger circle and can thereby evoke criticism and praise by which the learner may grow.

A mother gave the following account of her small boy (10 months):

“I have a feeling that he is always involved in a project. He will pursue something and stay at it until he clearly reaches a point of success. Presently the bathroom is of great interest. For more than a week he has been crawling to the bathroom 3 or for times a day, checking whether the door was closed. If so, he would utter sounds of annoyance and turn away. If the door is open he will enter quickly and explore the bathroom.”

After quite some time, when the boy was 2 years and 4 months old, the same mother reported:

“He still has his ‘projects’. For quite a while he has been giving himself precise accounts of the day’s experiences, after I had taken him to bed. I call it his ‘project Diary’. He did not start speaking before he was 2 but now he is making rapid progress.

Sometimes I eavesdrop, it sounds really cute, he does not articulate perfectly yet, but speaks with great emphasis. Often it goes on for more than half an hour before he falls asleep. It really seems like he is keeping an oral diary, all the while he is practising his speech. The other day I overheard him saying:

“All that I did today. All that! All that!”

The day before yesterday I secretly listened to him going over his vast vocabulary: a book, a blanket, a concrete mixer, a digger, a ball, a jacket, a shovel, and so forth – for more than 30 minutes.
Is sounded like a systematic exercise on the indefinite article (a, an). [The German words inflect by gender, and the given examples alternate between masculine/neuter „ein“ and feminine „eine“. – Transl. note]

I wanted to see if he would continue the exercise the next evening. But he was onto a new ‘project’: the lamp, the bed, the rabbit, the car, the desk chair, the carrot, the roll, and so forth. This time it was the definite article. So he was practising the definite article now. [German: „der“, „die“, „das“].“

So much for the mother’s report.
What I have not heard of with regard to toddlers was:

    • the habitual “keeping an oral diary” and
    • the systematic exercising of the definite and the indefinite article.

I think that is amazing.

What I have been familiar with is that even the very small children among the bright or gifted enjoy learning in projects of their own choice and that they do so very effectively.

Projects in kindergarten

In her article Reading and Writing in Kindergarten Silvia Hempler wrote:

“One of our main methods is working in projects. Since projects are aimed at a result – whatever it be – a great variety of the children’s faculties need to be employed to reach success. This integrates gifted children in shared activities and provides a multitude of experiences for all children of our facility. Experiences which every child may assimilate in its individual way.“

Learning in good projects is the best method for all children. Needless to say, it must be conducted well, certain criteria must be fulfilled – but then this method is unbeatable.

Learning in good projects suits gifted children perfectly. This is because it requires systematic and cross-linked thinking which gifted children happen to be very good at. Also, they can employ their broad knowledge in a meaningful way. This often changes their standing within the group. If their contributions are perceived as positive, their standing improves.

Gifted children are extremely imaginative, they have a clear view and dispose of critical thinking, characteristics that can be vital for the success of a project. Early reading, writing and math skills may further promote a project and can be demonstrated throughout.

At the same time gifted children can be challenged and hence further develop their skills in the course of a project (if their kindergarten teacher provides for this).

Klaudia Kruszynski wrote:

“For my first assignment (for the IHVO Certificate Course) I practised the observation of children. The knowledge and experience I have gathered there I would like to apply in a project.

I have noticed several children with extraordinary talents in my group. Some children show outstanding performance only in specific domains, be it intellectual or creative, social or in the motor skills. Other children appear to be ahead in all domains.

These children have needs that go beyond the needs of the average child. If they are to develop further, they need challenges that go beyond what an average child can handle.

It goes without saying that we also have children in our group who are at a developmental stage that is typical for their age, and who would be overwhelmed by the extra impulses.My aim is to address them all.I want to develop a project in which good ideas can be delved into as far as the children want to. I want them to have fun dealing with the subject matter, to be motivated to learn something new and to exercise their endurance and concentration, to live out different roles within the social structure of the group and finally to commit themselves to the project with their abilities and strengths.The gifted children do, of course, have a special purpose in the scheme. I want to involve them in the planning and employ their abilities and interests in that process. I hope that later on they will be the ones to push the project.The first thing we did was to play conducting an interview. I was a reporter and the children answered my questions. That is how I found out about their current interests and what they liked doing. From this I devised my projects.”

See also: Klaudia Kruszynski under the heading ‘My Project-Method’ – part of the article The Advancement of Mathematical Talent in Kindergarten.

Interesting Projects Featured in Detail Here in Our Manual:

Project: Time (Klaudia Kruszynski) (in German)
Power Girls’ Club (Gabriele Drescher-Krumrey)
Journalism in Kindergarten (Isabel Bonifert-Manig)
Project: Number Detectives (Heike Brandt) (in German)
Number Detectives Are Taking Measurements (Heike Brandt) (in German)
Hans Has a Heart and Experiences the Project ‘Tree of Words’ (Irmi Jurke) (in German)
Chess Club (Nazlι Baykuş)
Drawing Course with Linda (Silvia Hempler)
A Hen’s Egg (Hanna Vock) 
For Once Live Like a Mongole (Beate Kroeger-Müller) (in German)
Änne Draws and Writes A Book (Diana Verch)
Picture Book about the Perchten (Anke Cadoni)
Making Friends in the Researcher’s Club (Beate Kroeger-Müller) (in German)
Our Village in the Woods (Dorit Nörmann)
Watching Beans Grow (Klaudia Kruszynski)
Car Construction (Lucy Rüttgers)
When Were the Middle Ages? Project: Time Spool (Klaudia Kruszynski)
Collecting Cans – An Environmental Project (Silvia Hempler) (in German)
Butterfly-Club (Sonja Marquardt)
Children Interpreting a Picture by Dalí. (Klaudia Kruszynski)
Project: Building a Flower Bed (Doris Lenz) (in German)
A Perennnial Flower Bed for the Yard (Birgit Krabiell) (in German)
Experimenting with a Candle Flame (Petra Cohnen)
Ergün and Music (Petra Cohnen)
Peter and the Wolf“ and the Fine Arts (Petra Cohnen)
Experiment „Vulcan“ (Kornelia Eppmann) (in German)
Projekt: Measuring and Crafting (Ayla Altin) (in German)
A Car Wash for Bobby Cars (Ayla Altin) (in German)
Adrian Studies Nature’s Creeps (Jordis Overödder)
Adrian Takes to Reading the Newspaper – Questions of Life and Deat(Jordis Overödder)
The Mountain Club Club (Sonja Marquardt) (in German)
Rabbit, Dog and Black Rat – A Pet Project (Heike Miethig) (in German)

Features of a Project that Does Not Bore but Stimulate Gifted Children:

1.
The concept (the initial idea) is conceived by the children themselves or by the kindergarten teacher – in any case it pertains to the children’s current interests and is closely related to their experiences and their open questions. Most frequently it is the gifted children who come up with the ideas.

2.
The topic of the project’s subject matter can be broadened and narrowed or may change altogether. Further topics may arise from the initial activities and can be delved into.

3.
The project kicks in from the very beginning on; no time is wasted on preparations, instead the project group dives right into the subject matter and gets specific.

4.
The project can involve a single child, a small cluster or the whole group. The participants can even be from different groups within the facility. As the project goes and tasks arise along the way, participants may temporarily split into sub-groups to deal with these tasks alongside each other while working towards the common goal or they might just dig deeper into a specific area.

The project group is clearly defined, though. The members are ‘enlisted’. If desired – and if it does not disturb progress – other children may temporarily join in.

5.
The kindergarten teacher makes sure the members of the group are chosen wisely. For certain sophisticated projects the kindergarten teacher brings together the right blend of characters sharing common interests, abilities and talents.

6.
With regard to their individual strengths the children are encouraged to do the planning of the project themselves.

7.
With regard to their individual abilities the children are encouraged to tackle the search for useful information. Gifted children and those who show great interest are encouraged to learn useful techniques of acquiring information (asking experts, phoning, sending e-mails, doing research on the internet and in books).

8.
The children are encouraged to name clear goals for their project and to keep checking whether they are doing any progress and what the next steps might be.

9.
The children decide what steps are to be taken and where they need help.

10.
The children experience how odds are overcome, problems are solved and arising questions are answered.

11.
The children experience a sense of contentment and pride of collective achievements. They experience their cleverness, their power and their perseverance. They experience a kind of teamwork where all members bring their individual strengths to the project.

12.
The kindergarten teacher constantly reflects the progress of the project on the basis of his/her pedagogic expertise. He/she observes the individual learning processes and sets necessary impulses to lead the project to success.

13.
He/she ensures the implementation of a multitude of methods, a holistic approach (inter-disciplinary shifts of focus being welcome) and effective social learning throughout the project.

14.
He/she makes sure that all children get to acquire new knowledge and skills.

15.
He/she sees to it that the children perceive their individual progress (reflection) and shares their joy about it.

Such public relations efforts may be directed at the other children in the kindergarten, at the parents or at the general public.

16.
The kindergarten teacher willingly makes use of the gifted children’s expertise.

17.
He/she openly cooperates with his/her colleagues, with the parents and external experts for all the children to see.

Some Questions That Are Useful throughout the Project and at Its Conclusion For Documentation and Evaluation Purposes:

1.
How did the idea for the project emerge?

2.
Was there an extended period of preparations or did you dive right into he subject matter?

3.
What was the projected goal? Which ideas did the gifted child(-ren) contribute with regard to this question?

4.
What did the gifted child(-ren), what did the other children get to actively do?

5.
What did the gifted child(-ren), what did the other children learn – especially on a cognitive, verbal and personal level?

6.
Did the children develop new learning and thinking strategies?

7.
Did the children dispose of basic skills necessary for an effective participation in the project? Was the gifted child able to plan and handle the emerging tasks?

8.
In which ways did the gifted child manage to bring its high ability to the project? Which special gifts / strengths did the other children show?

9.
Were there any experts involved in the project (children/adults internal or external)?

10.
How have the concept and the project itself come along? Did it drag on at times or was it ‘happening’ at all times? Why was that so?

11.
Who was pushing the project, and how does he/she do it?

12.
Which impulses did you as the teacher provide? Which impulses were given by the gifted child(-ren), by the other children?

13.
Did anybody dominate the project – if so, was it to the advantage or the disadvantage of the project?

14.
What part did the gifted child(-ren) play in the project? What did they learn? Did the gifted child discover a new playing mate during the project, as the teamwork with that child was effective and fun?

15.
Did the original object of the project remain the main focus or did new goals arise?

16.
How did the children motivate each other?

17.
What adversities had to be overcome (by the children/by the kindergarten teacher)? How was this experienced?

18.
Was there anything or anybody which or who had a disturbing effect on the project? What or who was it?

19.
How was the time management? Was there a lot of waiting around? Was it hectic and were there forced interruptions of unfinished activities?

20.
Was there a continuous and in-depth exchange about the work done and about possible next steps?

21.
Did the children show signs of meta-cognition (reflections on learning, assessments of their own abilities)?

22.
Did the children have a sense of achievement? Who did, who did not? What did they say about it?

23.
Was the project fun for the children and the kindergarten teacher likewise?

24.
Was there positive feed-back from the parents / colleagues / management?

To print out the questions

Projects are to facilitate versatile action; the object is to promote, support and even evoke creative and complex thinking processes …

This can be achieved with the most different subject matters: there is hardly anything that gifted children couldn’t develop an interest in.

 

Published in German: June 2012
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint
Translation: Arno Zucknick

The translation of this article was made possible by
Silvia Hempler, Remscheid (Germany),
and Christa Liethen, Rheinbreitbach (Germany).

 

Plans, Drawings, Sketches, Mind-Maps

by Hanna Vock

 

Beginnings of Planned Action

9-month-old David had only been going to the daycare-centre for three weeks, when the following situation occurred.
After his mother had left, little David started crawling towards the open door of the group-room, with a very happy air to him. The kindergarten-teacher saw him leaving, so she set out to follow him with a bit of distance, so David would not notice he was being followed. Later, she remarked: „I thought he wanted to follow his mum, because he crawled around the corner, in the direction of the entrance door.“ But David very determinedly crawled past the entrance door, down the entire corridor, past all other arriving parents and children, straight to the other toddlers‘ group (U3 group for children up to age 3yrs). This group’s door was also wide open, because of the arriving children’s bustle. David crawled straight to the ball-pit, throwing himself into it with a yelp of joy.

In short:
The ability to make plans, drawings and mind-maps are understood as tools of mental activity in this context. Gifted children are often very eager to acquire these tools at a very early (pre-school) age.

 

The background to this extraordinary story:

David, who had stuck out for his extremely good memory, excellent spacial sense of orientation and indications for a special logical-mathematical talent later on, and time and again, had spent the first three weeks of daycare-time mostly in the ball-pit in his group. Because the house only had one ball-pool, it was shared by moving it from group to group after a while.

A day before the „crawling incident“, David had visited the other group’s room for the first time, re-discovering the ball-pool and playing in it.
The following morning, he had realized the opportunity (an open door) for making and putting a plan into action.

How good of the Kindergarten-teacher not to prevent his trip and bring him back to his group. Instead, she let him carry out his plan, and followed him, because she wanted to see where he was headed.

What exactly had all occurred in this baby’s mind?

    • He had developed a strong liking for the ball-pit.
    • He missed it when it was gone.
    • He re-discovered it and mentally placed it to be in the other group-room.
    • He remembered this discovery and the place the following day.
    • He saw, interpreted and pursued the open door as an opportunity.
    • He knew the way to the other group-room!
    • He was curious and brave enough, using his resources (the ability to crawl) in order to make and find his way independently.
    • His expedition lead to the desired destination and a heart-felt success.
    • He was allowed and could thus experience a sense of freedom and a great amount of self-efficacy.

Sometimes you need to (literally) follow a child, in order to understand what is going on in its mind.

All of the above listed points are important for a successful learning process.

Also see: How does learning happen?

David’s plan was an action plan: „I want to crawl to the ball pool.“ This plan splits up into the following subordinate plans:

    • Leave my group through the door,
    • crawl down the corridor,
    • turn at the corner,
    • crawl down the long corridor, past the entrance-door
      into the room where the ball-pit was,
    • locate the ball-pit in that room,
    • jump in and have fun.

Also see the paragraph on „Algorithms“ in the chapter on Basic Ideas of Mathematics.
Linguistically, he was obviously not yet able to verbalize his plan. Each single step (for example: turn at the corner) may have actually materialized during the expedition, yet, the initial as well as the desired final destination of his plan, must have already been in his mind from the beginning.

Let me tell you about what I’m planning to do

With increasing age, and at some point within their development, children are able to verbalize their plans (if and when someone empathetically shows interest and follows track), and after that, they are able to write down or draw the plans they have in their minds.

The IHVO-graduate Birgit Wester experienced an amazing method of orientation of a 2;10 year-old boy in her group. She writes as follows: „During his first days at kindergarten in the Rainbow-group he wants to visit the Sunshine-group. This is the layout of our floorplan:

He says to me: „I’m going to the group, where I have to go round the corner.“ I have never heard such a statement from a 3-year-old. It proves that he has an exact picture of our rooms and layout in his mind, shortly after having only started going to kindergarten.

More precisely, this means that he can verbalize the plan which exists in his mind. Unfortunately, we do not know in this case, from which point onwards exactly he could develop such a (pre-verbalized) mental plan.

The following example shows the outline sketch of an apartment’s layout, which a girl aged 5;11 drew. The order of the rooms, their orientation and direction is correctly reflected, even though she forgot her parents‘ room and of course all of the rooms lay immediately next to each other.

This demonstrates the ability of a spatial orientation on another level:

In each case, there was a good mental plan – in David’s case, the 9-month-old, it could „only“ be put into action actively; the almost 3 year-old could verbalize his plan; the 5-year-old was able to draw a sketch and label it.

The word PLAN has 3 different meanings in the German language: Firstly, it stands for a spacial classification (for example the map of a city or the layout of a kindergarten). Secondly, it stands for schedules (such as a train schedule) and thirdly, one can also use the word to talk about planned action and events in the future.

Both of the aforementioned examples depict a combination of both, the layout and the plan of action. The second example includes spoken language as a means of the child’s expression.

See also: Our Village in the Woods.

The following example introduces a child which has begun to write, noting down it’s self-created mental plan of action:

The daily schedule of a 6-year-old:


→ Plan: Clean room + clean surfaces. Go shopping. Go see Lena. Return wagon. Return items. Play.
One can clearly sense a need for planning and structure to a certain degree. Putting the plan into the form of a written list was most probably inspired by (parental) role models.

Making layouts

Plans are abstract reductions of the real world. A line can represent a street, a green spot may stand for a park. The purpose of a good city map is obviously to be well-arranged and clear, offering just enough information for a stranger to find his or her way in the real city.

Any unnecessary details (for example whether a house has two or four floors; whether there are flower boxes in the windows, or whether a house was built in 1920 or 1975 or whether there are 5 or 10 shops in this street) are omitted. Any essential information (where a street curves, where train tracks cross the street, where there are buildings or trees at a street) has to be represented.

The option of abstraction as well as a distinction between the essential and the unnecessary information poses a great challenge to many young gifted children.

It can be very appealing to draw the outline of the layout of a kindergarten with children, including all the essential information – and thus realizing, that you first have to agree on what exactly is important to whom: Children may find a playground important, a motorist will be interested in a petrol station, senior citizens may want to know the location of a pharmacy or a grocer, and all pedestrians care about pedestrian crossings.

Unfortunately, younger gifted children are often left out during these kind of activities, even though they develop a very early interest in this kind of task.

Such a project requires walking around the respective area, correcting the plan or map over and over again, according to the children’s observations.

Will everything fit on paper? What kind of scale should be used – and what exactly is a scale? These are all questions one can face during the progress of this kind of project.

Sketches and drawings, learning to draw

Being able to make a quick sketch or drawing can be a helpful support for the documentation of memories and may also facilitate communication with others. Many people are convinced they cannot draw. But here one should note: This tool of mental achievement can very well be acquired at a very early stage. One can practice detailed observation, as well as putting it on paper. Of course, talented drawers will clearly have an advantage. All aspiring artists go through a lot of drawing and sketching at the beginning of their studies. At kindergarten it is advisable to distinguish between artistic drawing and painting on the one hand, and the precise detailed drawing of real objects on the other, alternating between the two or combining them as well.
See: Drawing Course with Linda.

I highly recommend the titles listed below when practising how to draw in kindergarten. After an initial introduction by the kindergarten-teacher, children will be able to continue independently and experience their own achievement and success.


→ „Children learn to draw and paint“, by Alex Bernfels and Rosanna Pradella, publisher: christophorus


→ „For young illustrators and designers“, by Iris Prey, publisher: Bassermann


→ „Drawing vehicles – step by step“, by Norbert Pautner, publisher: Tessloff


→ „Drawing animals – step by step“, by Norbert Pautner, publisher: Tessloff.

 

See also: Drawing Exercises at 4

Mind-mapping

Mind-maps are not only for grown-ups. Important people and teams made up of distinguished people create mind-maps. Children are also important people.

Mind-maps were once invented by the British psychologist Tony Buzan, in 1971. This tool for mental labour or achievements soon found enthusiastic supporters and practitioners around the globe and the English term mind-map is literally translated as a mental or memory map.
The mind-map displayed below, features the letter A located in the centre. A stands for the German word for Orange (Apfelsine). This letter A, in the centre of an empty sheet of paper, was the beginning of a collection of associations for the concept of the term orange, from a group of kindergarten children. Each newly found concept, such as the origin or edibility, was added to the mind-map with a new branch.

See this mind-map in English.

 

Certainly comparable mind-maps could be created for other terms.

Mind-maps can be set at the beginning, as well as at the end of a project:
At the beginning, in order to collect ideas or at the end, in order to visualize and document the content and phases of an undertaken project and the information and insights obtained during it.

See also: Advancement through Projects

 

As soon as gifted children have learned to work with and apply mind-maps as a tool, they will find their own applications.

Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint.
Date of publication in German: May, 2011
Translation: Sonia Wagner