An „Old“ Concept – in Short

by Hanna Vock

 

This is the short version of a kindergarten concept that I wrote in 1999 and agreed with my colleagues and the children’s parents. The kindergarten (parents‘ initiative) looked after 20 children all day, the opening hours were from 7:30 to 16:00.

Even then, we took in almost all the children around the 3rd birthday, siblings in individual cases even earlier.

Children need:

    • Mental security
    • Recognition and confirmation
    • Clearance and durability
    • Realistic role models
    • Education
    • Support in their development
    • Motion and healthy nutrition
    • Friends and an understanding environment
    • Dreams and life goals

Parents‘ initiative – what does that mean for us parents?

As parents we want to

    • take responsibility for the kindergarten,
    • get a lot of information about what happens in the kindergarten and share it,
    • co-design without bureaucratization,
    • have fruitful discussions about educational content,
    • work trustfully together with the kindergarten teachers.

Relationship between children and adults

Adults, when they show respect for children, have a natural authority with them based on experience, skill, knowledge and responsibility. When we kindergarten teachers turn to the children in a friendly way, we receive a lot of affection from the children. The power associated with this must not be abused by adults.

Our education aims above all to build up no feelings of guilt and inferiority, but rather self-confidence and responsibility among the children.

It is important to us to always respect the needs of the children and to give them independence and freedom.

But we also set ourselves apart from the inappropriate demands of the children and reject pampered moods calmly and firmly.

For us there are no favourites among the children. „Easy to care for“ and „difficult“, loud and quiet, cheeky and inhibited, thick and thin, grumpy and shiny, fast and slow, skilful and clumsy, quick tempered and controlled – they are all great, unique children.

The same requirements are placed on all of them, according to their age and stage of development. And all receive the same attention and devotion from adults.

Living together

For our living together in a group with children and adults, clear, comprehensible, valid rules are necessary, which all adhere to.

These rules should help that

    • children’s freedoms are limited where it might be too dangerous for them,
    • all children – assertive as well as shy – get their rights,
    • the nerves of children and adults are not excessively strained,
    • a reasonable degree of order is maintained.

We adults take responsibility for ensuring that the rules are reviewed from time to time and that the children know them and also the reasons for them. Everyone makes sure that the rules are adhered to, and of course we as adults bear the responsibility.

Freedom

The children should have as much freedom as possible. They are encouraged to express their opinions freely, to determine their own play and to express their needs clearly. Participation in games and activities is largely voluntary.

The kindergarten teachers encourage children to participate if they do not dare. The kindergarten teachers take care when individual children do not take part in certain activities. If they realise that participation is important for the child’s development or for his position in the group or for his self-esteem, they try to find out why the child does not want to participate. They act accordingly or leave the child alone.

Children are asked to complete things they have started, but not forced or urged to do so.

Offers are made from a variety of creative areas so that each child can find ways to develop its creativity: Playing theatre, singing, gymnastics, painting, experimenting, handicrafts, cooking, building, dancing…

We assume that children are usually the best experts for their basic needs (food, drink, motion, play, rest, warmth, fresh air, contact, distance). They are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves at an early age in these areas.

[It’s raining – but under dense trees it’s still comfortably dry.]

Learning

The focal points of our holistic learning concept are

    • independence and a healthy self-esteem,
    • social skills,
    • emotional intelligence,
    • dealing with conflict and aggression,
    • ability to express oneself in body language and language,
    • basic experience in many areas,
    • challenge for independent and solution-oriented thinking,
    • nature experience,
    • critical handling of consumer offers.

Important methodological pillars of our work are project work and small group work.

Our children come to school well prepared.

We pay special attention to the advancement of children who are particularly eager to learn and to learn and whose interests and ability to concentrate go beyond those of their peers.

These children should find in us the necessary understanding for their particularly great need for self-determination and independence. We make sure that they always find challenges at their own level in everyday kindergarten life and thus contribute to their satisfaction and integration into the group as a whole.

Movement

Freedom of movement is a good measure of the outer and inner freedom a child possesses.

Children who are not allowed to move enough due to prohibitions and lack of space are restricted in their outer freedom. Children who move inhibited are internally unfree.

Both are very closely related in small children.

Our kindergarten is an kindergarten full of movement. The children are in motion almost the whole day, they only sit while eating and in the circle of chairs and when they want to sit down while painting or playing.

We have two rooms (in a former school pavilion). The entrance area, the kitchen, the sanitary facilities, the office/storage room are tiny, but our outdoor area is pleasantly large, close to nature and overgrown. It is used a lot. The children have many opportunities to rest, retreat, lie down or snuggle up somewhere.

Nach dem Toben ein Nickerchen

 

[A nap after the romp]

The children can go outside at any time (except during the acclimatisation period and during lunch and morning circle) and play on our adventurous outdoor area. They are therefore very much in the fresh air.

Once a week we can use the gym of the neighbouring school. We also have a weekly „vehicle day“ where parents bring the children’s bicycles, tricycles, roller skates or similar. This allows the children to ride in the schoolyard after school.

Once a month we run and play in the forest for a few hours.

Religion

There is no religious education in our kindergarten. Thus, parents who do not wish to have religious education for their children or who want to educate their children themselves in these early years of life will find a suitable offer in our kindergarten.

We celebrate Easter, Thanksgiving, St. Martin’s Day, Advent and Christmas in the kindergarten according to customs and filled with universal ethical values.

Religious and other ideological themes, which the children from the different families bring to the kindergarten, are treated with respect and tolerance.

Nutrition

Our children receive a breakfast offer, a lunch and a small meal in the afternoon in the kindergarten.

All these meals are based on certain principles: low-sugar, wholefoods as possible (bread, rice), low in meat (no sausage, only meat or fish once a week at noon), lots of vegetables, lots of raw fruit and vegetables, lots of potatoes and rice.

Also the voluntary, alternating food supply by the parents (dessert or salad) depends on these principles. The kindergarten has a collection of recipes for wholefood desserts.

No child is ever forced or urged to eat anything or empty its plate. The tried and tested tasting portion is also offered to children, but is not imposed.

Full-day care

All our pitches are full day pitches. We find it positive when parents can practice their profession or pursue their own goals in some other way. We support mothers in caring for their children as well as for themselves, because satisfied parents are better parents for their children.

We consider it positive if children live together with other children in a group for a large part of the day. We observe again and again that free children often prefer the society of other children if they can vote, because most children can only satisfy their playing needs to a great extent together with other children.

We support parents to accept it positively and not to see it as a rejection or as a sign of a lack of parent-child bond if their child wants to visit another child in its home after the kindergarten day. Especially the child, who is kept in a safe and warm mother/father-child bond, separates easily and moves freely in the world without fear or guilt.

Read also the extended version of the concept.

 

Date of publication in German: 2012, October
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.

 

Annotations – Point 1

by Hanna Vock

 

It is important to take the child’s special interests, play and learning needs seriously.
This means
Gifted children have special playing and learning needs.
When gifted children of three years of age come to the kindergarten for the first time, they often already set themselves the task of behaving „correctly“ in their new living environment (kindergarten), just as a kindergarten child does. This means that for a long time they may not be so focused on themselves and the implementation of their own needs, but rather observe their environment and try to adapt.

The child often does not manage the balancing act between its own level of development and the observed actions of other children of the same age on its own, which can lead to it showing even less of itself.

Recognising the child’s playing and learning needs and interests therefore requires a conscious effort on the part of the kindergarten teachers.

It is crucial to establish a basis for discussion with the child on the basis of observations and initial assumptions.
See: The Initial Observation and Examples of Evocative Observations.

The Questionnaire on Child’s Interests can be helpful to get into conversation.

Some gifted children, on the other hand, show their interests quite clearly. By means of astonishing playful actions or verbal expressions, they indicate that their development, perhaps overall, perhaps in some areas, is significantly further advanced than that of their peers.

Now it depends on how exactly the kindergarten teachers look and listen in order to gain a comprehensive picture of the child.
Is it important to continue (appropriately) to support even the most advanced child in kindergarten? Or can we confidently leave it to itself and allow it to completely adapt itself in its learning expectations and in its playing behaviour?

The educational mission of the kindergarten
applies equally to all children.

Responding to the recognised needs and interests of the child can not only be very invigorating for the child, but can also enormously enrich the day-to-day work of the kindergarten teachers.

 

Date of publication in German: October 2012
Software-generated translation for immediate availability. Inaccuracies to be removed by proofreading (in progress).
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.

 

Advancement in Small Groups – Possibilities and Advantages

by Hanna Vock

 

A good method in kindergarten: Targeted offer to a small group

In contrast to the open offer or the working group to which the children can volunteer themselves, the aim here is to motivate very specific children to participate in order to enable these children in particular (generally or in a specific area) to gain further experience and a sense of achievement.

Depending on the activity, a small group can consist of two, three or up to six children. If the group is larger, the benefits disappear.

If a small group offer is aimed specifically at those children who are particularly well developed in the area of development concerned and show special abilities and interests,

then we’re dealing with
advancement of the gifted.

In the initial phase of her IHVO Certificate Course, when the subject of „small groups“ had not yet been dealt with, the Cologne kindergarten teacher Rebecca Halsig wrote after the experiences from her first practical work:

„I am thinking about whether it might be useful to take the children in my group who are particularly gifted (there are already some of them) more often as a small group. Then I can do with them the activities they want and the topics they are interested in. Maybe they’ll have more fun, what do you think?“

At the time, the course instructor wrote on the edge of the paper.: „Absolutely! And not too rarely!“

…in a nutshell…

Where it is not yet, small group work should find its way into the kindergartens.
In the two-year IHVO Certificate Courses, kindergarten teachers gain experience with it and describe it in their practical work. Many of these works have already been published in this manual, others will follow.

The author also describes her own experiences (which took place before she started the IHVO Certificate Courses).

She also discusses the argument that is often heard in training courses:
„We can’t do that.“

First experiences with small group work

I made my first positive experiences in my kindergarten group by looking at picture books and singing.

Learning to sing in a small group

In our kindergarten we had a large, but still clear fund of songs that were sung frequently. We had the claim that all the children could really sing along, which meant that they would soon be able to master the melody and lyrics. For most children, occasional singing is not enough for that.

So a singing group was founded for the three-year-olds. The songs were sung piece by piece and at an appropriate tempo; the children were soon very proud of the fact that they were able to sing along well to the older kids and sang self-confidently from the top of their throats. Since every year all new and three-year-old children were able to enjoy the singing group, the Kita group as a whole was very secure in its lyrics and melodies.
Of course, the participation in this small group was also voluntary, because there were always children who simply didn’t enjoy singing. And singing without the desire to sing is absurd.

Picture book view in the small group

When I started my work in kindergarten, it was customary for us to read from a picture book to all the children who wanted to after lunch. They were always the same five to eight children. The rest seldom got the chance to get to know a picture book in a cosy circle. That was unsatisfactory for me.

The situation changed radically when we divided the group of 20 children into four small groups. Now there were four to five children gathered around the kindergarten teacher. Everyone could see well, there was no crowding, everyone could speak.

Mondays to Thursdays there was always a certain group. Each child soon knew exactly when it had „read aloud“, almost everyone took part almost always.

It was also important that the groups were not divided by chance. In the first attempt we divided the children according to age; but the better I got to know the children in this respect through the intensive conversations that accompanied the reading aloud, the more the composition changed.

That was the point,

    • to look at pictures extensively,
    • to get to know stories,
    • to absorb knowledge from non-fiction picture books,
    • to talk about all this.

In practice, it soon turned out that sometimes the younger child was much more persevering, interested, linguistically more capable and able to reflect on the contents than his peers in his reading group.So it changed into a more suitable group.
Conversely, children who were still overwhelmed by the stories and conversations also changed.

We explained to the parents, who at first were somewhat startled to ask questions, that we wanted to put the groups together in such a way that each child would benefit as much as possible and feel comfortable in the small group – neither over- nor underchallenged. We explained:

It’s a good feeling to be able to really have a say; all children should be able to do that. And it is also pleasant when the book selected corresponds to one’s own level of development and capacity. I also invited the parents to sit in on the reading group of their child and also in the „next higher“ group.

Thus the composition shifted: The criterion „age“ was more and more replaced by the criterion „talent“. In this way, both more gifted and less gifted children were able to develop continuously and gain a sense of achievement.

Small group work as a general method

Gradually the work in small groups extended to many areas of kindergarten life: Handicrafts, experiments, music, theatre, etc., and soon we didn’t want to miss it  anymore.

The better I know a child, the more I have already done together with him, the better I can judge what this child already knows and can do, what I can expect and what the child can build on.

In order to get to know the child well, I have to do a lot with him. I see little of what the individual child can do when it „disappears“ in a group of 15, 20 or even 30 children.

I observe when doing things together. If, for example, I bake a cake together with two children – and meanwhile leave the other children to their free play and the devotion of my colleague – I know afterwards which of the two children can crack an egg and which can’t; I also notice by the way which child already has an overview of the whole process and which only overlooks partial actions, and I notice which relationship the children have to numbers and weights. I can also experience which child can distinguish flour, salt and sugar by appearance and taste.

I also see what cooperation skills the children have been able to develop so far.

If I talk extensively with the children while baking, I can find out, for example, whether the children know where the flour comes from and what organic eggs are.

Such joint activities and discussions give rise to ideas for new joint activities, learning fields and projects.

What I have observed when working together with two children I can remember well for a short time and take a few notes immediately afterwards.

If, on the other hand, I bake with 10 children, I am busy ensuring a certain order, regulating who may break the 4 eggs …
And I have to keep the frustrated children, who would like to do more themselves and would also like to enter into a peaceful spiritual exchange, „at the bar“.

I then made an offer for 10 children, but in the end there was less learning and less joy and concentration in the room than if I had worked with two or three children.

And I cannot say very much about the individual children later, except: P. always pushes himself forward, L. holds himself back and F. does nonsense. I don’t get a thorough impression of the children, but rather make random individual observations which can reinforce prejudices or which I quickly forget because I can’t question and deepen them in the situation.

How much professional satisfaction
gives the working form small group work
to the kindergarten teacher?
Everyone has to find that out for themselves.

Quite apart from that, there are of course also many joyful and important (learning) experiences in the whole group.

Another positive effect is that the insights and experiences from the small group often flood over into the whole group: Often the children of the small group are able and willing to pass on to the whole group what they have learned themselves. Thus it can happen that children master games, songs and materials so confidently that other children can learn from them.

Small group offers are often possible!

They are always possible if there are (at least) two kindergarten teachers in the group. I have often heard in training courses: „We can’t do that, we don’t get to it, we don’t have time for it at all“.

In fact, there are still kindergartens where a single educator is alone with the group in the long run. In my opinion, this is an untenable, very uneducational and unacceptable situation for all concerned. And then it really doesn’t work.

The same is true if the kindergarten is so cramped that a small group cannot retreat to play and work undisturbed.

It depresses me again and again when colleagues explain unsustainable personal and spatial conditions to themselves: „There is no money there“. – In one of the richest countries in the world.
(See in addition: Improving Framework Conditions! – German version)

But otherwise, with two kindergaten reachers in the group and sufficient premises, the argument „That’s not possible with us“ does not stand up to closer scrutiny.

Can I organise this in my kindergarten? And how often can I work like this?

The work with small groups has to be carried out for each individual.
In my kindergarten there was small group work almost every day. Of course, the groups were always composed differently: Sometimes I sang the kindergarten songs with four three-year-olds and talked to them about the lyrics so that they could sing along to our most common songs with confidence (this then took perhaps only a quarter of an hour on several days), sometimes the particularly gifted children made scientific experiments, which already lasted a whole morning – and because of the enthusiasm was continued the next day.

My colleague in the group of course had the same right to work in small groups, and I often noticed that she (even though she didn’t have an exam as a kindergarten teacher) had intensive philosophical conversations with two children while playing a difficult game with them at the same time.

Also in our projects, which for a long time covered the whole group, small group work always had a firm and important place.

Advancement for gifted children in kindergarten
is for me hardly imaginable without small group work.

Advantages for the gifted children and the kindergarten teachers

In the IHVO courses, many participants develop the following working method, which are also suggested by the tasks in the course:

The first task is to get to know a particularly and possibly highly gifted child better through targeted observation.

See also: Examples of Initial Observations and
Examples of Evocative Observations.

Then they take up a serious interest of this child and form a small group around this child. Sometimes it makes sense to start „smaller“ in order to integrate the gifted child into the kindergarten group and to give him important experiences, see:
One-on-One Advancement, Mentoring. 

Surprisingly often – but by no means always – the „observation child“ is able to judge for himself which of his play friends could fit well into the small group – especially if he already has experience with small group work. In the end, the kindergarten teacher makes sure that the cognitive level of the children is similarly high.

Experience has shown that children who cannot keep up cognitively soon lose interest and withdraw. In order to spare the child this frustration, the kindergarten reacher may be able to talk openly about it in advance with her „observation child“ and communicate her assessment.

Verena Demirel, for example, writes in one of her homework assignments (IHVO Course):

„In advance, Murat and I had discussed that his friend David would only take part in actions related to English (as foreign language). I explained to him that David couldn’t yet calculate so far and that they would both be bored with such a game.“

A problematic solution would be to lower the cognitive level so that everyone can come along. This is always useful and important for the whole group to show consideration and solidarity – but it would be counterproductive to work in small groups.

If the children then work well together with the support of the kindergarten teacher, the advantages for the gifted child, but also for the small group as a whole, will soon emerge:

    • The contents can be particularly extensive, since the children have a great capacity for understanding.
    • They can work intensively and in depth, because the children remain persevering and enjoy thinking.
    • The pace and progress of the project can be comparatively rapid, the gifted child does not have to wait too long for everyone to follow.
    • The gifted child experiences sufficiently intensively that the other children also have good ideas, which encourages its willingness and desire for teamwork.
    • The result is satisfactory, the gifted child does not have to think disappointed: „That was (again) nothing.“
    • The opportunity to contribute one’s own ideas and thus be understood is pleasingly high.
    • Discussing ideas and making decisions together is possible at a higher (language and thinking) level and with greater independence and seriousness.

What effect does it have when gifted children form a small group?

The results of the activity are correspondingly high-ranking:
For example, the result is a „real“ theatre play, the result also satisfies the particularly gifted children.

The scientific experiments are much more difficult, but the children still manage not only to understand the experiment and the explanation, but also to contribute information themselves and to develop and pursue their own questions.

The conversations about stories and picture books are linguistically differentiated and intellectually astonishing. The children can deal with more difficult types of questions in relation to the story, for example: Why is this so, why does XY not behave differently? What would I do? etc.? (See also the section „We know different ways of asking“ in: How to Promote Thinking.)

Topics are dealt with more diversely and penetrated more deeply. (See also the section „Mind mapping“ in the article Plans, Drawings, Sketches, Mind-Maps.)

Here in the manual you will find a wealth of practical examples. Kindergarten teachers describe their astonishment at how intensive the learning processes of gifted children are when they can work undisturbed with similarly gifted children, well guided and accompanied – and how happy they are to do so. Very often the children show a remarkably positive social behaviour.

As early as 2001, I myself had very good experiences with a playing and learning group consisting of seven children aged 4;8 to 5;6. There were three girls and four boys. Seven was actually a bit much for an intensive small group work, also otherwise the conditions were not rosy in comparison with a group in the kindergarten:

In the beginning the children didn’t know each other, they didn’t know me either and of course I didn’t know them either. We met weekly late afternoon in a barren room in an adult learning centre. I had to carry all the material with me and take it home again in the evening.

But all the children were gifted or probably gifted.

After ten weeks, at the end of the project, I was able to report a very positive conclusion:

„The children reacted motivated to the offers of advancement. In almost all situations they acted with recognizable joy and concentration, their social behaviour was predominantly appropriate and positive, and they performed well. They showed clear progress in learning.

Thus we can draw the conclusion that the goal of creating an appropriate playing and learning environment for the gifted children was achieved.

There were clear indications that the so-called secondary virtues such as stamina, discipline and concentration develop well in appropriate, challenging learning situations.

If gifted children are continuously and jointly promoted over a longer period of time, it can be assumed that their achievements will become even more creative than was already apparent. It can also be assumed that they will make the learning process even more active and independent if they constantly have the opportunity to acquire communication and learning strategies as well as structured knowledge in many areas. The broader and more consciously these bases are promoted, the more freely creativity and self-determination can unfold from it.

(from: Hanna Vock, Project: Spiel- und Lerngruppe für hoch begabte Vorschulkinder (Playing and learning group for gifted preschool children), 2002)
Here you can see an excerpt of this report: A Hen’s Egg (German version).

See also:
Examples of: Advancement in Small Groups

Three Little Girls Are the „Mind Group“ (German version)

Butterfly Club

Theatre Play with Gifted Children (German version)

One-on-One Advancement, Mentoring 

That’s how a gifted 13th grade student sees it:

She writes in her report about her participation in a course of the Schülerakademie (a holiday academy for gifted students from the upper level of the grammar school):

„8.3.1 Courage to create homogeneous performance groups
When forming groups for team work, the school usually pays meticulous attention to ensuring that „the good“ or „the bad“ do not work together. The advantages are obvious: all groups should be able to perform equally, pupils with different abilities should learn to get to grips with each other. But does this always have to be the case?
In the SchülerAkademie I experienced the performance boost that work in a group with equally strong members brings about. As an experiment, it is also suitable for school lessons. Of course, the results of the work are not comparable with each other, but they are not in the foreground either, but the joint work experience. A teacher could, however, respond to the different levels of difficulty of the task.
Regardless of the level of the work done, I believe that the homogeneity of a team benefits all participants.

While good students „inspire“ each other, weaker students have the chance to take on the leadership role in a unified group. The same pace of work prevents one student from feeling „lost“ within his group while another student is bored. Students can temporarily slip out of their roles in their class. It will avoid the situation where those with a quicker grasp will always explain issues and work steps to their slower classmates while they feel that they are fundamentally dependent on the help of others to solve a problem. Under these conditions, even an equal workload would not be fair. In return, good students, who automatically take the lead in teamwork, learn to coordinate themselves in a team consisting of the same „leader types“.
What makes teamwork efficient, work facilitation through division of labour and, ideally, the „multiplication“ of the creativity and strengths of the individual members, can, in my view, best be learned among equally strong partners. In order to make such a synegy effect possible, the professional world also pays attention to filling homogeneous teams.“
(from a publication of the Deutsche Schüler Akademie 2004)

How nice it is when gifted children can make
such experiences already in their kindergarten years!

 

Date of publication in German: 2018, January
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.

 

 

History of an Idea: Advancement of Gifted Children in Kindergarten

by Hanna Vock

 

Where in the world does an idea like that
come from???

Even some good friends and pedagogues still think it is a crazy and exaggerated idea to deal with the advancement of gifted children in kindergarten.
But it did come to me in 1999 – and now the idea is here to stay and it is spreading (very) gradually.

… in a nutshell…

In the beginning there was the realization that kindergarten teachers ought to be familiar with the phenomenon of giftedness. In the meantime, many trained pedagogues have received further training in this field at the IHVO. Children and parents are content, there is the IHVO with its advanced-training programs, the certificate courses and an online manual.
This article describes, how it all came to be.

Prehistory and preliminary work

Many conversations with parents, children, school teachers and kindergarten teachers made it clear to me that there was a big gap in the educational landscape: In teacher training as well as in kindergarten teacher training, the prospective teachers learned nothing about giftedness and the developmental needs of gifted children.

My personal experience was also negative: The school psychologist who was consulted in 1991 about two high school students only raised his shoulders and said that he had no idea and no experience with gifted children (in the big city of Düsseldorf!); he only ever got to deal with the opposite, he explained himself. The only thing he could do was to give me a letter of acknowledgement stating that I had sought advice …

I wasn’t really surprised. In the 1970s, when I was a student of educational science and sociology, I myself had learned absolutely nothing about the phenomenon of giftedness. After I had attained my academic degree, in 1991 I completed a formal training as a kindergarten teacher while already as the head of a kindergarten. Here, too, the issue of giftedness was never brought up.

Later this would give me the idea to ask the participants in my training courses from 2002 to 2006 whether they had heard anything about giftedness in their training as kindergarten teachers. The result: Only 8 of the more than 1,500 kindergarten teachers surveyed had heard the term „giftedness“ or synonyms in their training at all – and always only casually; only in three cases without a negative rating. Then I gave up the surveys and put just the more energy into the further training courses.

At the beginning, in 1999, I began to sort out and evaluate my own experience in order to develop a training concept. From the very beginning thought it important to create a close and meaningful interlocking of theory and practice, which according to almost all participants was a success and was considered to be very helpful.

In addition to my work in kindergarten, I began to reevaluate and deepen my ideas about young gifted children.
I carried out three projects: In 1998/99 a „Why Club“ with gifted primary school children, in 2001 a playing and learning group with presumably gifted children aged four to five and also in 2001 a theatre project with highly gifted children aged four to eight.
(See also: A Hen’s Egg and Theatre Play with Gifted Children and Theatre Adaption – Tale of a Princess Whom Almost Everybody Considered Too Smart (German version).

The „Warum-Klub“ (Why-Club), which took place weekly for about three quarters of a year, and the theatre project, which ran for eight weeks with weekly dates, were organised by myself. I led the play and learning group on behalf of the Volkshochschule (Adult Education Centre) in Düsseldorf.

In 1999 I began to give lectures in kindergartens and adult education centres. When lecturing kindergarten teachers I benefited greatly from the fact that I myself was working in a kindergarten at the time and was therefore able to illustrate my teachings with real-life examples. From the beginning I almost always experienced great interest among my colleagues, and this encouraged me to take the plunge, to give up my job in kindergarten and to start my own business in 2001 as a teacher in further education. I was lucky to be well-prepared for this as I had already done this work of training kindergarten teachers – albeit on completely different topics – for several years in the past.

Right at the beginning of my self-employment a serious traffic accident slowed me down – but the idea of offering a whole range of further training courses on the subject of „Gifted children in kindergarten“ was later implemented.

In 2001 and 2002 I gave many training courses, mainly in North Rhine-Westphalia, and even beyond. These were 3-hour on-site events and also 1- to 2-day seminars for various institutions.
In this context, my experience as a kindergarten teacher were invaluable.

From 1991 to 2000 I had been working as a kindergarten teacher in a kindergarten group with 20 all-day places, six years of which I was the head of this kindergarten. From my family background I had a heightened sense for particularly gifted and gifted children, and I did discover and support several gifted and several particularly gifted children over several years at my kindergarten. I made notes about many situations as well as utterances of the children immediately or later that same day. I also made detailed notes on the parent-teacher talks.

The gifted children in my kindergarten group challenged me pedagogically very much, so that I got more and more into the theory of giftedness, which in turn enhanced my perception of the particularly gifted and highly gifted children, it became sharper and more differentiated.

It was fortunate that during the 10 years I worked in kindergarten I was able to look after 13 presumably or tested gifted children over the years. In addition, there were many children with clearly above-average talents. I owe important experiences and insights to these children, who, despite their great individuality, showed patterns in their psychological (especially cognitive and social) needs. Certainly my university studies (educational science / sociology), completed in 1978, were helpful to me in this field research.

Parallel to the further training courses, in 2001 parent consultations were taken up – another source of valuable experience that flowed into the concepts. From these conversations I learned a lot about the difficulties the children had in kindergarten. My understanding of gifted children and their families also benefited from a discussion group of the DGhK (Deutsche Gesellschaft für das hochbegabte Kind e.V. – German Society for the Highly Gifted Child) in the town Kaarst near Düsseldorf, which I launched and directed together with my husband in the late 1990s.

Parents whose children behaved differently because they learned much faster and quite differently than other children hardly ever found any support or guidance with respect to  their questions and the whole, comprehensive and exhausting task of advancement. This is still the case for many families today – but at least in the vicinity of the IHVO and the other institutions that have been established in the meantime, a lot has happened.

Beside many positive also negative experiences

I developed these concepts, keeping in mind a critical evaluation of the few other early attempts to cater more adequately to gifted children’s needs in kindergarten. I attended a kindergarten in Hannover, which belongs to the Christophoruswerk and which was built with endowments and received continuing support. Being the first German kindergarten to address the issue of the advancement of gifted children, this kindergarten has lasting merits, but I did not conform with the pedagogical concept and the pedagogical practice I observed there.

I was also not convinced of the ECHA (European Council for High Ability) course for teachers, which I took in Münster in 2002/2003 to learn more. It did not meet my expectations in terms of content nor of teaching methods. The title of my final thesis was: „Aspects of Advancement of Gifted Children in Kindergarten“ (Aspekte der Hochbegabtenförderung im Kindergarten).

I felt that the progress of my aim to create an additional vocational training for kindergarten teachers was lacking momentum. I found no competent and committed partners for this project and I was left all on my own with the work I had set out to do. What’s more, no financing could be found for such an extensive venture.

The fact that neither suitable partners were to be found nor funds could be tapped into for two years was owed to the fact that absolutely new ground had to be broken. No earlier than 2002 did the 2nd German advanced training course for school teachers (conducted by ECHA) take place. I attended and completed it, as otherwise I could not discover anything else on this topic in the way of advanced training. Since this ECHA Diploma Course did not correspond to my ideas regarding contents and methodology, this, too, was of little help for my project.

At least the contact to Prof. Dr. Franz Mönks gave me the opportunity to present the idea of a vocational training for kindergarten teachers at the conference „Früh fördern“ (Early advancement) in Bensberg near Cologne in March of 2002.
(See: Training Programme for Kindergarten Educators …(1)and Training Programme for Kindergarten Educators …(2)

Following the Bensberg conference, I successfully submitted an application to the Imhoff Foundation Cologne for funding of the planned first of my courses. At the request of Prof. Mönks, the further training was to be carried out as an ECHA certificate course for kindergarten teachers. In the following time, however, it turned out that my ideas and those of the responsible ICBF leader were far apart. Thus the 1st German Certificate Course for kindergarten teachers in Germany (2003 – 2005) was organised by the ICBF  – and conceived and carried out by me (see the Final Report– German version), but afterwards I ended the cooperation. Already in 2003 I founded the IHVO (Institute for the Advancement of Gifted Pre-School Children).

The recruitment of participants for the first course in Cologne was – new territory! – still very laborious. But the very committed participants made up for all the effort. This first certificate course again provided plenty of new insight and, above all, proved the worth of the cooperation with my new colleague Barbara Teeke, who has since then worked part-time for the IHVO. (See: About Us (German version.)) She contributed additional expertise that I do not have: She has plenty of experience and a huge background in the testing of young children for intelligence and giftedness.

In 2003, the project „Schwerpunktkindergärten für Hochbegabtenförderung (IHVO-Zertifikat)“ (Integrative Focus Kindergartens for the Advancement of Gifted Children),  which goes beyond the certificate course in terms of content, entered the pilot phase in Remscheid (town in North-Rhine-Westphalia) thanks to the pedagogical foresight of the Remscheid Youth Welfare Office.

In autumn 2004, the Imhoff Foundation transferred the funding from the ICBF to the IHVO’s Förderverein (sponsoring association), so that the work for the gifted preschool children in Cologne could continue under good financial conditions until the funds provided by the foundation expired in 2009.
In 2007, I succeeded in obtaining a foundation grant for the IHVO from the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. („Stifterverband is a joint initiative started by companies and foundations – the only one in Germany to be devoted entirely to consulting, networking and promoting improvements in the fields of education, science and innovation.“ – from the Website of Stifterverband).
This grant had the advantage that it could be used throughout all of Germany, whereas the Imhoff Foundation’s funding was limited to the city of Cologne by its statutes. Unfortunately, this funding ran out in 2011 in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
To a large extent, the foundation funds were used to keep participation fees for the IHVO Certificate Courses low, so that they were affordable for kindergarten teachers.

Before all this could happen, I had a decision to make:
I gave up my secure employment in kindergarten in autumn 2000, fully aware that nowhere in Germany could one apply for a position where one could advance this topic with full force. So I became an independent education consultant again and turned my attention completely to the topic of promoting gifted children in kindergarten.

Finally: The first certificate course starts

The first certificate course was a milestone. It started in March 2003 and ran for 2 years. At the graduation ceremony in the banquet hall of the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, the first 11 kindergarten teachers in Germany received their certificates as „Expert on the Advancement of Gifted Children in Pre-School Education“.
Since then there have been 20 IHVO Certificate Courses and 14 kindergartens have become „Integrative Focus Kindergartens for the Advancement of Gifted Pre-School Children (IHVO Certificate)“.

These kindergartens act as beacons radiating their expertise into their surroundings. They independently (and initially also with the support of the IHVO) carry out collegiate consultations and further trainings as well as parent consultations.
In 2009, Arno Zucknick was found as another suitably qualified part-time employee who conducts certificate courses and on-site seminars and has also translated large parts of this online manual into English. (See: About Us (German version.))

From the very beginning it has been my intention and part of the concept that the written papers submitted by our attendees are to be incorporated into an online manual. For the publication I edit the work in close cooperation with the authors. It is a huge pool of experiences and descriptions of what the advancement of gifted children can look like in concrete terms in kindergarten. I am still amazed at the creativity of my colleagues, because the reports are very varied and always „close to the child“.

Many of such treasures are still stored in my cellar and I hope that I will be able to put a lot of them into the manual – in addition to my own contributions, which outline my pedagogical ideas.

What about today?

When I started working intensively on the topic, I was 50 – a prime time in life to get something new started. Now 20 years have passed and I understand very well a sentence that I heard from Prof. Franz Mönks at that time: „You will need great tenacity for this topic“. And that’s how it was. Much has been achieved by the IHVO and many others in the meantime; and yet parents still, to this very day, experience astonishing things when dealing with institutions that – by their own declaration – feel committed to the topic of the advancement of gifted children. Only three selected examples:
1.
The school Psychological Servie for schools in Cologne keeps declaring (parents have reported this): We do not conduct testings „for the fun of them“. Only if problems at school occured, the children will be tested there, thus not before the beginning of school and once the child’s development has already been impaired.
2.
In March 2013 a mother wrote to me:
„I have contacted the Kooperationsverbund Hochbegabung (in Braunschweig-Brunswick-HV), the statements there have shocked me very much: High Giftedness was NOT a criterion to get admission to a kindergarten of the cooperation network, because
1) there were 1000 parents with test results standing in line. (With 2-3% „genuinely“ gifted children per year hardly imaginable…)
2) Tests could easily be misinterpreted (or render false results).
3) What did a positive test result prove, after all? It might just as well be be no more than a development boost.
(By the way: My son was tested for the first time at the age of 3;8 years, then twice again, the result was always the same …You should introduce the Braunschweig (Brunswick) area with to your further education programme :-)“.
3.
And in 2018 (!), a psychologist working at an institution for the gifted wrote a report after testing an almost 6-year-old girl with percentile rank (PR) 98 (see: Gaussian Distribution of Intelligence):
„There’s no acute need for action … The girl won’t be bored in 1st grade.“ This girl nevertheless dares to be persistently bored a great deal.

There is still a lot to be done …

 

But the fascinating contacts with gifted children and their parents are worth it.

See also:
Goals and Services of the IHVO.

The Becoming of the Manual

 

Date of publication in German: March 2019
Translation: Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.