by Martina Werner
A clearly highly gifted girl from my group unfortunately moved to another city shortly before the start of my IHVO Certificate Course. So I had to decide quickly for another child.
I suspect three other children in my group to be gifted. I then decided on the most „conspicuous“ of these children who, in my opinion, needs the most support. The problem with these three children, however, is that they are all moving to another group in the summer because the pre-school children are being grouped together there. Therefore, I do not yet know how I will be able to work with my observation child in the future.
Nevertheless, I have decided on: Malte (now almost 5 years old). He has been attending our facility for two years, the family has booked 25 hours, which means he is with us from about 7:30 am to 12:30 pm. There are currently 19 children in his group, aged 2 to 5.
Malte is difficult, but also clever
Malte is „conspicuous“ in many ways. He has few friends, he often has fights and also physical confrontations, he often plays the clown, he prefers to play with adults, he can be very helpful and reliable, he quickly stores up great knowledge when something interests him,… I would now like to take a closer look at him.
For me, there was already a remarkable observation a year ago: Malte had once again attracted attention by knocking over furniture and having fierce arguments with other children and I wanted to interrupt this by offering him a more difficult learning game („Heinevetters Zehnertrainer“).
At that time he was not yet four years old and could only read the first three numbers. But the game went up to 20, and since he couldn’t read the numbers, he simply counted them off each time. He had to sort tiles with written numbers onto a card that contained different symbols in different quantities. In addition, colours played a role: red from 1-14, blue from 1-14 and black from 1-20. The tiles were pre-sorted in a difficult arrangement.
So he first had to recognise this sorting, then keep the colour, count the symbols, then count the tiles in the right colour, keep what he had counted before,…
In any case, all this required a great deal of thinking ability. I only had to give him a hint once, information was immediately stored and implemented. He invented his own system and showed great intrinsic motivation and perseverance. In the meantime, pick-up time had begun and his mother waited patiently. However, it was important to him that I stayed with him so that I could eventually support him.
Since then I have been observing him much more closely and have
more positive than negative sides to him.
I mean, here he shows:
Enjoyment of intellectual activity and of recognising connections, quick absorption and processing of information, logical thinking, independent problem solving and perseverance with interesting topics.
Numbers and letters
From January to March, I observed Malte particularly intensively (4;10 to 5;0 years). His interest in numbers was confirmed. When I filled a tub table with sand and wooden numbers, Malte looked for the numbers in the sand and could name them all from 0 to 9. He was also able to put them in the right order by starting to count at 1 again and again. A colleague then showed him how the numbers beyond 9 are put together, for example that 10 consists of a 1 and a 0. He quickly understood the system and was able to place more numbers. To check whether he had internalised the system, the next day I did an exercise for the portfolio with these wooden numbers. There he could repeat it. He can now count up to 30.
He has a great interest in numbers, he is curious to learn more numbers and shows a quick grasp and a good memory. He likes to work with numbers for a long time, mostly on his own initiative.
Malte is also interested in letters. In February, a colleague offered a „rhyme workshop“. He went to the interested children personally and asked if they would like to rhyme something with him. Malte was engrossed in a game with cars and so my colleague sat down with him and started to tell him stories in rhyme. Malte showed interest, but didn’t want to interrupt his game. In the course of the conversation, a poem slowly emerged. Malte neglected his game more and more and turned more and more intensively to rhyming. My colleague Sinan took down the poem in capital letters and the next day they entered it into the computer together.
The plan is to produce a book of poems that parents can also read. Malte was also very interested in writing on the computer. At the beginning, Sinan showed him the individual letters, after a short time he found the first letters on his own, he saw that Sinan used the space bar between the words, he understood how to get to the next line,… and at the end he copied the poem on his own. However, he found it difficult to ask for help. Instead, he kept showing a letter until Sinan confirmed it. After both offerings, he still had the desire to have a story read to him.
Lars lebt auf dem Mars,
und spielt gern mit Cars
oder mit dem Gras.
Er hat auch einen Hasen,
der heißt Haas.
Lars lives on Mars,
and likes to play with cars
or with the grass.
He also has a rabbit
Again, you can see his quick thinking when he writes the poem on his own at the end.
He shows self-motivation and long perseverance, especially when working with adults. You can also see his sense of word play, his large vocabulary and his good way of expressing himself. However, here you can also see that he has high expectations of himself. He doesn’t like to show that he can’t do something.
I have other examples of that:
He also likes to do Mini-LÜK with an adult. He then chooses the tasks himself and tends to choose easy tasks that he can do without any problems. When I give him more difficult tasks, he likes to ask for the correct position for each tile until I say yes.
Or he likes to sign up for AGs, he is curious about everything new, but he doesn’t join in at first. He sits down and watches.
My guess is that he has very high expectations of himself and only joins in when he is sure he can do everything.
That’s what he did, for example, in the early music education that an external colleague offers in our kindergarten.
I asked her for information about Malte’s behaviour and skills. In her opinion, Malte has no special abilities, he is good but does not stand out. Instead, he has great deficits in social behaviour. He often disturbs the others, sometimes doesn’t follow the rules, sometimes doesn’t participate at all,… These are exactly the observations I have also made.
But I think that on closer inspection there is more to Malte!
Our trainee started the therapeutic riding programme during her time at school, which she continues to supervise at the moment. The four-year-old children could register there. Malte was really looking forward to it and went along enthusiastically the first time.
Once there, he held back again and just watched. But even then he retained an amazing amount of information and details. For example, on the next outing he knew that the part of the hoof you are supposed to scratch out is called the „frog“. The other children have also noticed that he knows a lot and ask him when they don’t know something. He is the „expert“, so to speak.
Malte has a special ability to remember and observe. He stores knowledge in a lasting way. He also shows great knowledge about natural history topics.
He needs additional challenges
Although he now enjoys riding, he recently didn’t want to go, his parents had told me. He could not give them a reason. Our trainee Laura, then talked to him about it and found out that Malte doesn’t like to take turns riding. He would rather use all the time for riding. But there are always 10 to 12 children together with three horses in the forest or in the hall, so it doesn’t work without taking turns. Laura and Malte were then able to agree that he could be the „photographer“ in between. So now he is responsible for taking the photos.
When Laura gave Malte the introduction with the camera, I could again observe how quickly he learns new things. Laura told me afterwards that he was able to handle the camera very well and with little help. The next time, the battery of the camera happened to be empty, so he had no task to do while waiting. He was then barely able to follow rules and massively disrupted the flow of the joint offering. That’s his other side again!
So he also has an interest in technical processes, but also in natural history subjects, such as horse riding, photography or even rabbits.
Sad about the death of the rabbits
We have rabbits in our kindergarten that the children can take care of.
I was on sick leave and came to visit the kindergarten on Carnival Friday. Malte was the only child from my group and was looked after in the group of children under 3 years that day. My colleagues told me that Malte had neither eaten breakfast nor wanted to play or talk. When I arrived, he was very happy and immediately started talking to me.
He had brought a white cuddly polar bear with him that day and told me he had caught it during the carnival procession. „At home, I buried the bear in the ground,“ he said. I asked him: „But the bear is white and it still looks clean, so it should be dirty?“. To which Malte replied: „No, only in the game, because our Anton died.“ „Who is Anton?“ „Our rabbit at home, he’s dead“, said Malte.
He then told me exactly what had happened. The rabbit couldn’t be caught in the evening and they left it outside overnight. A marten had caught the animal, killed it and left it bloody on the trampoline. The family then buried the rabbit together and even put up a small cross. A rabbit also died recently in the kindergarten, „Mo“. These two stories must have kept him very busy, so he acted out the experience at home. He was also able to tell me that he was very sad about the death of the two rabbits.
He not only deals with natural history topics, but is also sensitive in dealing with animals. Dealing with the topic of „death“ is one of his philosophical pursuits.
Interest in natural history topics and preoccupation with the environment are also shown by the following example:
Malte likes to play role-playing games, e.g. police, fire brigade and especially rubbish collection. He often brings his Playmobil rubbish truck from home and then, for example, wooden bricks are turned into rubbish. He also likes to play rubbish collection in the next room. Then the toys from the doll corner become rubbish that is hoarded in a corner, and even the furniture is „put out on the street for bulky waste“. Even simple empty cardboard boxes or animal dolls from Schleich (trademark) are converted for this game. He involves his playmates in this game and since he has great knowledge in this field, he is usually the game leader.
Even at home he has deliberately sorted out a toy of his, put it by the road, waited and watched until the bulky refuse picked it up. Unfortunately, another child beat him to it. It took the toy for itself, which made Malte very upset (as told by his parents).
At breakfast, he often asked me which bin the rubbish, for example the yoghurt pot, belonged in. I then explained to him about waste separation: the yoghurt pot belongs in the yellow bin because it has a green dot. I showed him different products with the green dot and also explained paper waste and residual waste. He was particularly interested in the green dot.
He looked for more products at home and a few days later I saw him explaining the Green Dot to an older child, he was the „expert“ again.
Again, this shows a quick grasp, a good memory, great intrinsic motivation and preoccupation with ecological issues. In addition, his artistic originality is evident here; he uses many everyday materials for his play and reworks them. He acquires extensive knowledge by asking further questions and re-enacting everyday situations. He shows interest in technical processes, which keeps him busy for a long period of time.
His aggressive side
In a way, he also shows leadership skills as he leads the other children in his play. The problem with his kind of leadership, however, is that he wants to determine everything and leaves the other children no room for manoeuvre. He does not pay attention to the signals of other children or adults. This often leads to conflicts that can even become physical.
I can remember a situation when Malte and his friend Sarah (1 month older than Malte) played together for about an hour and a half: they built an enclosure for animals, then a „restaurant“ for the animals and then made up an invented menu for the animals. They had a lot of fun.
After a while, they moved to the big carpet together and started building something with Duplo separately. Since pick-up time was coming up, I asked them to clean up. They did so, but continued to play their respective games. They each had a box to put the Duplo pieces in. Sarah then got up and picked up a piece near Malte. Malte was so disturbed by this that he jumped up, shouted her name at her and hit her in the face with a large Duplo piece. Sarah started crying, completely confused, and I first had to comfort her.
Afterwards, I went to another room with Malte so that Sarah could clean up in peace and I could talk to Malte in peace. When I asked him why he had hurt Sarah, he replied that Sarah had annoyed him. But then do you have to hurt someone or can you talk to them? Both he and I were sad that I had to scold Malte. He then also wanted to clean up on his own, although I had offered him my help. Maybe that was his way of making amends.
Malte wants to determine as much as possible himself and sometimes behaves aggressively when something doesn’t go his way. In case of conflicts or tasks he doesn’t like, he can usually explain exactly what has disturbed him. Rules are then sometimes interpreted literally and circumvented in this way.
He also likes to play the clown, for example, he sometimes lets himself fall and sings while doing so, which is especially fun for the younger children. He also does this in the chair circle or morning circle where it disturbs others.
Morning circle leader
I suspect that he gets bored with the circles because he knows all the answers. He often has to hold back a lot so that he doesn’t blurt out the answers. The younger children don’t know the answers so quickly. That’s why I asked him if he would like to be the morning circle leader. He thought it was a great idea. I then suggested that he draw it on the „board of wishes“. He did it immediately by drawing the candle and the morning circle board and I had to write what he wanted. He then cut it out and put it on the board.
A few days later, Malte was allowed to be the morning circle leader, with my support, which he had specifically requested. He sat next to me and I informed my colleagues. He then gave the „commands“, so to speak, for example: everyone shakes hands or who is allowed to count. If I noticed that he didn’t know something, I supported him by whispering. That way, he didn’t have to take a back seat, but could decide for himself whether and how to help the children. Unfortunately, my colleagues were quite impatient and anticipated some things from him. We had probably talked about it too little beforehand.
(The example of other boys who showed their dissatisfaction with the morning circles can be found in the article Custom-fit Cognitive Advancement, in the sections about Malte – it’s a different Malte! – and Daniel).
Malte prefers to play with children of the same age or younger. Actually, only two children are his friends: Sarah (1 month older) and Till (1 year younger). But even they withdraw from him more often. Slowly, he is starting to play with older children as well, where his expertise helps him in many areas. He is appreciated and sought after as an „expert“.
He probably lacks children with the same interests and level of knowledge.
Malte therefore likes to play with adults. But he sometimes crosses boundaries with them, too. For example, he pulls so hard on my scarf as I walk by that I can’t breathe for a moment, or he runs into other parents‘ stomachs so hard that it hurts them. Is that cockiness or the desire for attention? I can’t classify all his behaviours yet.
Malte shows strengths
On the other hand, he can be very reliable when he does jobs for adults. He likes to help in the early morning service and fetches raw food on his own, which he is allowed to determine himself, or brings the telephone back to another group. It’s good to let him act independently.
I also have another example of good abstraction skills: Since the children were again very interested in cars, I took out a whole box full of them. In addition, I put a poster on the wall showing different models of different ages. Malte then started sorting out cars. A big part went into a corner and a few others into a box. At first I just watched him and didn’t understand what he was up to. Then he asked me if I wanted to buy a car. You could buy the models that were on the poster. He had chosen the cars that were most similar to the pictures. If there was no similar one, at least the colour was right. I was amazed and „bought“ two cars right away. They were then allowed to play with them on the car carpet. Other children came along and also wanted to buy cars. There was also discussion about whether the cars really looked the same. But he was able to convince everyone and „sold“ all the cars. Great idea!
You can see how well he can imagine things, how creative he is in his play and how adept he is at using language.
I also have another example of his musical intelligence: Rico banged a spoon against a bottle at lunch and made „music“ that way. He found out that an empty bottle sounds different from a full one. Since we work according to the situation-oriented approach, I spontaneously took up this topic the next day and went to our research room with our oldest children, carrying a bucket of water, an empty bottle for each child, a spoon, a funnel and a measuring cup. We gathered around a tub table and Rico told us what he had found out the day before. Then the children were given the task of filling their bottles to different heights with water. The second to last child had filled his bottle completely. Coincidentally, Malte was the last child and was now faced with the problem of how much water to fill his bottle with. He looked carefully at all the bottles and found an amount that was still missing between the others. I had it easier, my bottle remained empty. So we had filled 6 bottles. Everyone was now allowed to elicit sounds from his bottle one after the other and then we compared. Each bottle sounded different. Next, we made „music“ at the same time and then one of us had the idea to sing, „Guten Morgen, Frau Sonne“ 〈Good morning, Mrs. Sun!〉 so that the sun would finally come out (this winter was already very gloomy!). Everyone agreed that it sounded very nice. I still had the idea to play „Alle meine Entchen“ 〈All my little ducklings〉, the number of bottles and sounds happened to be suitable for it. I sang and played it to the children and they all wanted to copy it individually. Some needed support by pointing to the bottles, but Malte was able to copy the song correctly on his own right away by observing the other children. I was amazed.
Again, his quick comprehension and great memorisation skills were evident. He showed special attention span and intrinsic motivation.
But that was not the end of this special experience. I then had the idea to perform the song we had learned and our self-made „instruments“ in the circle of chairs. It was Friday, after all, and we always try to have a circle of chairs. The children were enthusiastic. No sooner said than done! We put the chairs together, got a table in the middle and prepared all the „instruments“. The other children were excited. Since Rico had been the initiator, he was allowed to perform something first. But Malte also performed „All my little ducklings“ alone, as the only one without assistance and without mistakes. Even some of the younger children wanted to try it out and songs they had made up themselves were played and sung.
My colleague then had the idea of bringing wine glasses, filling them with water and stroking the rim with a wet finger. The children were fascinated by the sounds and you could have heard a pin drop. Some children then tried to make these sounds too and were overwhelmed when they succeeded, including Malte.
I have to say that this was one of my best kindergarten days.
None of it was planned or pursued a specific goal. There was simply time and space to experiment and try things out. Everything was possible and in the end there were surprising insights.
With regard to Malte, I was amazed at how well he was able to engage with this topic and at no time did he want to play the clown. I think he was captivated by what was happening and was highly focused and engaged. He felt confident here and was able to perform in front of the whole group.
Malte also has a good eye for detail. We made fire engines with lots of children and hung them up in the cloakroom. He didn’t know how to make the car, So on his own initiative he picked up a book to use as a template. Then he picked out the details that were most important to him and got started. His car was made of red cardboard, the lights on top were blue, the ladder had to be silver and the windows were also in a certain place,… The two of us then made a road for the fire engines. I wanted to make the stripe on the road with black cardboard. But I wasn’t allowed to do that, because it’s really white!
Malte is very attentive to his environment and remembers details.
Recently, I filled out a questionnaire with Malte. By chance, the teacher from the „Robbers‘ Group“, who will be looking after him in the next kindergarten year, came along and went through the questionnaire with him again. It turned out that I had misunderstood something. He doesn’t just think it’s stupid when something he’s built is broken, but when anything is broken at all. And he had given „ambulance“ as his career wish. Without thinking, I wrote down ambulance driver. That wasn’t correct either. He specifically meant the paramedic who pushes the injured into the back of the car and takes care of them. We were then able to clarify that together. I learned from this how important it is to stay in dialogue with the child and not immediately make your own interpretations.
I was amazed how exactly Malte knew what he had told me. Here you can see his amazing memory once again.
What can I do for Malte?
I have planned to form a group with Malte and some other presumably more gifted children, which will meet regularly once a week. Malte should come into contact with children who „function“ in a similar way and have similar interests. If he is appropriately challenged and encouraged, I hope to see an improvement in the social area so that his behaviour towards other people becomes less aggressive. This is his behaviour that he stands out with and is associated with, so to speak „his pigeonhole“ into which he is put.
After consultation in the total team, we agreed on 4 children for this group. To find out their common interests, I have the children fill out a questionnaire. I have done this with two children so far.
In addition, I had the idea of training and using Malte as a „dispute mediator“. After all, he knows the rules very well and they are important to him. In addition, he has the language skills to convey them correctly. Maybe he will gain more empathy and be able to solve his own conflicts better.
In this first practical work (in the IHVO course), we were to deal in particular with the Observational Chart by Joelle Huser.
In summary, I would tick the following points from this observational chart for Malte:
A General characteristics
- General developmental advantage, great interest in letters and numbers, (e.g. tens trainer, rhyming workshop)
- Quick perception and curiosity, (e.g. Green Dot)
- Orientation towards adults, (e.g. rhyme workshop)
- Amazing memory skills, (e.g. questionnaire)
- Long attention span and strong self-motivation, (e.g. numbers)
- Critical attitude towards own performance – high demands on oneself, (e.g. in AGs)
- Urge for independence and autonomy, (e.g. helping adults)
- Preoccupation with social, philosophical, political and ecological problems, (e.g. death of „Anton“)
- The „taking literally“ and the demand for explanations, (e.g. conflicts)
- Innovative use of materials – artistic originality, (e.g. rubbish collection)
- Sense of humour and word play, (e.g. rhyming workshop)
B Characteristics of underachieving children
- Aggressive, demanding or clown-like behaviour, (e.g. morning circle)
C Linguistic intelligence
- Large vocabulary, (e.g. riding)
- Good expressiveness, (e.g. cars)
D Mathematical – logical intelligence
- Preference for ordering and counting activities, (e.g. Mini-LÜK)
- Good ability to abstract – spatial reasoning, (e.g. cars)
E Inter- and intrapersonal intelligence
- Particularly good observation and perception skills, (e.g. handicrafts)
- Leadership skills, (e.g. morning circle leader)
- Strong sense of justice – high sensitivity, (e.g. conflicts)
F Naturalistic intelligence
- Depth and breadth of information, (e.g. rubbish)
- Great knowledge of natural history topics, (e.g. animals)
- Great knowledge of and interest in physical, technical and chemical processes, (e.g. photography, rubbish)
Overall, this would give Malte a score of 22, putting him in the range of a higher ability child.
Interestingly, I also gave the parents a Questionnaire for Parents to take home. They assessed their son similarly and ended up with the following questions:
Is our child above average gifted?
What should we do in this case?
What do we have to consider?
I have already answered yes to the first question, he is definitely a gifted child. I hope to find out the answers to the other questions in my further training (IHVO Certificate Course). In addition, I would like to help Malte to acquire more skills in social interaction, which is where he most urgently needs help and support.
You can read about what happens next with Malte in Five Children Form a Group and Follow Their Interests.
Date of publication in German: April 2021
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see Imprint.