Observations after the Observational Chart by Joelle Huser

by Hanna Vock


The highly recommendable book „Lichtblick für helle Köpfe“ („A ray of hope for bright minds“) by Joelle Huser (see bibliography), which has in 2011 been published in its 6th edition, contains valuable copy templates which are presented in the IHVO Certificate Courses and then used by participants in their work. For example, the „observation sheet“, which fortunately also takes kindergarten age into account.

The questionnaire was developed to select the children for a support programme of the city of Zurich/Switzerland. It is tailored to the support programme there and therefore does not take into account all areas of giftedness (see: Domains of Giftedness), but five essential areas when it comes to discovering giftedness:

    • general characteristics of high intelligence,
    • linguistic intelligence,
    • mathematical-logical intelligence,
    • interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence and
    • naturalistic intelligence.

In addition, characteristics of underchallenged children have been included in order to identify those children for whom additional advancement appears most urgent in the case of a shortage of space in the support programme.

Huser points out that the chart should not be used in isolation in order not to misjudge children. I would like to emphasise this.

Careful handling of the observation sheet is a prerequisite for us in the IHVO,

    • that the chart is part of an observation instrument,
    • that, where possible, observations made by team colleagues and parents are included,
    • that the statements of the chart are related to as concrete observations as possible of the child’s actions and utterances,
    • that the chart is used again at intervals in order to check and refine assessments.

In the following you will find examples of the work with the chart at kindergarten, related to the individual child who is suspected of having a special talent. They come from the homework of participants in IHVO Certificate Courses.

Jasmin, 3;4 Years
Ergün, 3;10 Years
Rachel, 4;6 Years old
Felix, 4;8 Years old (German version)
Manuel, 5;0 Years old
Malte, 5;0 Years Old
Katja, 6;10 Years (German version)

All names are changed to protect the anonymity of the children.


Date of publication in German: 2009, September
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.

Jonas, 4;2 Years

by Anke Cadoni


It was very difficult for me to find a child in my group for the first practical task (in the IHVO Certificate Course), as I actually don’t suspect any of my kindergarten children to be gifted.

I finally decided in favour of Jonas because I had often noticed him as „special“ since he joined the kindergarten. He has been in my group for over a year and is now 4 years, 2 months old. From the beginning he has shown a very strong will of his own, he knows exactly what he wants. He’s more advanced in many ways than his peer friends.

His development is very good in all areas, it is relatively easy for him to learn and to perceive the things around him. I think that he is also very talented in some areas, perhaps also above average.

In any case, he is a child that I should keep a close eye on in order to prevent understrain.

… in a nutshell …

The kindergarten teacher must select a gifted child for a further education task. She is uncertain and it also remains uncertain whether Jonas has high talents. Through her observations she tries to track down the child’s talents in order to avoid an underchallenge.

The following references to a possible giftedness are most likely to apply to Jonas:

(According to the Indicators of Possible Intellectual Giftedness).

    • Jonas likes to play with older children and can also be very active on his own.
    • He shows great perseverance, enthusiasm and resilience in tasks he has set himself, for example difficult puzzles.
    • He has good observation skills and a distinct sense of justice.
    • I also see an early urge for self-control and self-determination. He has a strong will of his own.
    • I also notice complex trains of thought and a differentiated language in Jonas.
    • For me, idiosyncratic learning strategies show themselves in the fact that he has certain ideas about how he handles something – and there he does not allow himself to be perplexed by anyone.

Spontaneous observations (from memory)

Jonas dressed and undressed himself independently as soon as he entered kindergarten. He never let himself be helped, even if it took him a little longer – but he always managed to do it, except to close the jacket. To close the jacket alone was his big goal from then on. After about a month this also worked.

He is very individual up to stubbornness, in a positive sense.

He has his own strong views. He always has clear opinions and answers to questions or requests.

He’s more likely to overtax himself than to be underchallenged. From the beginning, he has always chosen games and puzzles that were not „age-appropriate“. Often it was puzzles or number games with which preschool children still had difficulties.

He didn’t always succeed in everything immediately, but then he got help on his own or tried it until it finally worked. Some games were played daily until they were fluent.

So he is an „autonomous learner“ who likes to organize his learning processes well himself. This learning is often particularly effective if it is accompanied by empathetic support and impulses from adults.

Jonas has a very pronounced vocabulary. He likes to talk about experiences, often very spontaneously and with a lot of joy. It is fun to listen to him!

Current observations to get a clearer picture of his abilities and talents

At the moment Jonas is busy with letters. Now he can write his name almost completely independently and would like to learn now still „Mama“ (Mom) and „Papa“ (Dad) and further words. He takes the initiative and gets help only rarely.

Without any problems he cuts already difficult templates with scissors without deviating from the line. Here, I think, he also notices well that he has something ahead of the others at his age, they often still tingle.

Jonas has complex trains of thought! For example, when I was in the process of creating a picture book with him, in which he had also glued folding work, he was in the process of painting a picture for it. The painting depicted an island on which a luminous lamp was placed. Jonas spontaneously said to me:

„Mrs. Cadoni, now I fold a windmill that produces the electricity for the light and the heating and glue it to the island.“

See: Jonas (5;3) Makes Another Picture Book and Screens Paper

With him a boy of the same age enrolled in the kindergarten. Everyone thought (especially the parents) that the two could play beautifully together. But it soon turned out that this boy is not a playing partner for Jonas. At first Jonas played a lot on his own and meanwhile he orientates himself on older children.

Jonas is painting a picture of the weather. Another boy sits next to him and looks at his picture. Jonas begins to explain his picture: „Here’s the sun, and there’s thunder and lightning.“

Then the boy next to Jonas asks: „Why is the sun so dark?“
Jonas: „I know why the sun colors itself: because it is far away. I have a book about it, also about thunder and lightning and how electricity is created.

Here his interest in logical contexts and scientific processes shows itself in rudiments. He is very inquisitive and shows great joy in storing and processing information. Jonas also gets a good knowledge transfer from home and good literature suitable for children is paid attention to.

In another situation I explained to Felix how to glue the Easter basket. Jonas already sat at the table and painted another picture. When it was Jonas‘ turn to make his Easter nest, I wanted to explain to him how it works, but he said:

„I just heard that, I already know everything, Mrs. Cadoni!“

This observation reflects his quick perception and curiosity. Although he was busy with other things, he listened well and immediately understood the new procedure and was able to apply it right away. His eyes and ears are always open for new things.

If you ask Jonas to do a certain thing, which you seldom have to do with him, because he is usually well and dedicatedly busy, he often contradicts or refuses. He then often works without concentration, reluctantly or listlessly.

Perhaps he needs these remaining times, in which he is not visibly active, to think, to feel or simply to enjoy leisure. Or he is sometimes not so well on it and wants to have his peace and quiet.

Eric is overwhelmed with the tingling or has no more desire to continue. Jonas comes along and immediately recognizes Eric’s problem. He says: „I can cut that out for you if you want!“

Jonas has a fine sensorium for the sensitivities of others. He is then happy to offer his help. He often notices when children are not doing so well or when they need help.

He shows a fascination for all kinds of experiments.

Jonas has a particularly good ability to observe and perceive.

He can reproduce experiments carried out in the morning circle well linguistically and so clearly that children who have missed can understand the process well. Jonas explained an experiment even though he was not present during the execution. He dares a lot!

Jonas has a large vocabulary. He expresses himself well linguistically and often speaks grammatically correct and confidently.

Jonas likes to seek contact with older children and adults. It annoys him very much when younger children or children of the same age disturb his plans. Jonas doesn’t discuss or quarrel with the children, but looks for another place to play.

Jonas shows me a feather he has found. I ask him which bird it could be from. He says: „From a dove perhaps? I’ll take it home with me!
Jonas’s answer was indeed true.

I ask three children to clean up the doll’s corner because I know that they had played there before. But I don’t mention Jonas. He comes to me a short time later and says:

„I also played up here and have to clean up!“

This shows his strong sense of justice. I don’t think he could stand it very well for himself if he wouldn’t help in this situation now.

Jonas is often very sensitive, especially when it comes to criticizing his actions or behavior.

„Draw still the hands, otherwise the Easter bunny cannot pick up the eggs!“ says Jonas to Sven, who forgot to paint the paws.
Here one recognizes the mental connections of Jonas: without hands/paws one can pick up nothing.

Jonas tells me this morning that he can now ride the large bike without training wheels, he seems very proud.
He always saw the big boys riding bicycles outside, and it annoyed him that he couldn’t yet ride without training wheels. Jonas often makes very high demands on himself. Now he is so happy that it finally works.

Jonas often comes up to me and then wants very specific things from me. Lately I’ve been evermore asked to fold him an airplane. He also sets himself targeted and well-considered tasks: Today he wanted to paint an Easter egg. Or he asks for certain materials / things that he needs for the implementation of his plans.

Jonas is very creative. He wants to carry out his planned activities as independently as possible. He shows an extraordinary inventiveness in the use of everyday materials.

However, he refuses to fold paper planes himself. I think he watches as long as I do it, until he is sure how it works – and then he folds it alone.

One of our toilet flushes is defective. Jonas notices this and thinks that his father could repair it. When his mother picks him up at noon, he immediately shows her the defective thing and asks her for advice: „Can Daddy do it?“
Jonas can transfer what he has learned well to other situations. His father is a plumber, and he’s probably already noticed how he repaired a flush. Jonas remembers many things and can think and imagine many things well.

Jonas and Felix play in the building corner. Jonas builds a football stadium. He says: „Swim twice more, then I will play with the Bambinis! (the youngest players in soccer clubs)“
Jonas knows exactly how long it will take. He likes to deal with numbers and uses them accordingly.

Jonas sets a campfire with woods, Eric and Sven help.

Jonas gets a red magnetic letter and lights the fire playfully with this „lighter“. Afterwards they play Indians and sit around the campfire. Jonas asks Sven for a piece of cardboard to make the fire burn properly. (He makes wind with the cardboard.)

Here again a good knowledge about scientific connections and techniques can be recognized.

Jonas builds a great work of art out of cardboard rolls and different cardboard remains, which he later gives to his mother. This indicates a pronounced creativity and originality.

Jonas loves to puzzle or to lay tangrams.
Here he shows a strong self-motivation. With heavy puzzles he is often so deepened that he doesn’t perceive anything around him anymore and forgets the time completely. He shows high abilities in the occupation with geometrical figures and with tasks, which require spatial thinking ability.

Here you can read an evocative observation, which should give further information:

Jonas Does Make Paper Planes (German version)

And you can find projects in which Jonas was significantly involved here:

Picture book about the Perchten

Jonas (5;3) Makes Another Picture Book and Screens Paper

Soccer and Newspaper


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


Examples on Children under the Age of 3 in Kindergarten

Example by Martina Lange-Blank, Cologne

Jan-Hendrik spoke with 2;1 the sentences: „I know who I am – actually nobody“ or „I know myself exactly, but you don’t know me“.

When he was 2;6 years old when he got a place in a kindergarten with us, he didn’t come with a cuddly toy during his settling-in period, but with his „university book“. The mother was apparently embarrassed, she explained: „He doesn’t like to take a cuddly toy with him“.

The „university book“ was completely empty and also remained empty, but it was very important for him, he always had it with him. If someone said: „There is nothing in it“, then he replied: „But I can still read everything in it“.

Jan-Hendrik was and is a cheerful and balanced child and was always full of energy from the beginning. In the morning he thought about what he would take out of his university book and tell the other children today. Linguistically he was very far away.

See also: Jan-Hendrik Wants to Write an Encyclopaedia of Romans (German version)

Date of publication in German: 2014, January

Example by Petra Cohnen, Herzogenrath

Ergün has a precise idea of what he wants to do, when, with whom and where. He accepts regularities in the daily routine in principle, but often discusses them with the kindergarten teachers if his play ideas could be disturbed by the regularities.

Example: In the first few months that Ergün spent in our kindergarten, the following situation occurred, which is still present to me and which still makes me smile today:

On that day I accompanied the children to lunch and told them that we would go to the Rainbow Group after dinner because our own group was cleaning today. A conversation developed about cleaning: Putting up chairs, rolling up carpets, etc.; some children wanted to help me with this work. Ergün, then 2;3 years old, stresses that he will not go to the neighbouring group, he will continue playing here! Through the following conversation between Ergün and me it turned out that he wanted to finish a building he had begun. My explanation that the building also had to be cleared away didn’t seem to impress him at first. This surprised me again, as I had rather expected his protest.

He was silent for a while and then asked if anyone else besides me would put up the furniture for cleaning. When I denied that, his face brightened and he wanted to know in a friendly way if I didn’t want to end my work now…

That shows a really very early ability for combinatorial and strategic thinking as well as for thinking in relation to time.

All kinds of things! And, of course, it is also very cute.

For further development of Ergün see:

Ergün, 3;10 Years

and still 3 further contributions, which are linked at the end of the contribution „Ergün, 3;10 Years“.

Date of publication in German: 2010, April

Example by Hanna Vock

Sheila (2;10) showed very intelligent behaviour. She found a block puzzle on a shelf in the group room. This is a game consisting of 4 x 6 wooden cubes, which are covered with fairy tale pictures on all 6 sides. On each cube only a part of the picture is to be seen.

Depending on how you place the cubes next to each other, you can get many muddle of noodles pictures or a complete fairy tale picture – and there are 6 different ones. Before you can place a square puzzle piece, i.e. one of the cubes, correctly, you have to find out the correct side of the cube, place it upwards and turn the picture into the correct position.

Since all sides of the cube were painted in a similar style and colouring, the playing child had to orientate himself either on the content of the picture or on the very differentiated picture transitions.

For a two-year-old this is a great mental challenge. Sheila tried with great perseverance and on the second day managed to lay the first fairy tale completely.

After one week she had laid all six fairy tales.

The same girl told her mother when she was picked up at the age of 2;5:

„We all jumped down, so jumped, jumped… Karin (the kindergarten teacher) came in and said: „You’re not supposed to do this.“  But we did it after all. Always up to the chair and down, hop, hop. But Eli and Aida sat still.“


Date of publication in German: 2010, April
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.


Gifted Children and Exceptional Emotional Sensitivity

by Elke Keuler


– in discussion with presentations on the „Phänomenologie der Hochbegabung (Phenomenology of Giftedness)“ in Webb, Meckstroth, Tolan: Hochbegabte Kinder, ihre Eltern, ihre Lehrer – ein Ratgeber, Bern/Göttingen/Toronto/Seattle 2002 (3rd edition), page 21 -41. (See bibliography.)

Performance and talent are only one side of giftedness. Often gifted children are also particularly emotionally sensitive. This is also emphasized by the Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kasimierz Dabrowski (1902 – 1980), whose theory is presented in the first part of the book by Webb and others.

I find it particularly interesting how Dabrowski classifies certain behaviors and special sensitivities (high sensitivities of the senses) of gifted children, which I have already observed myself.
He distinguishes five congenital special sensitivities („overexcitabilitis“ – abbreviated OE), which occur in gifted children in different mixtures and intensities and strongly determine their personality:

– psychomotor
– sensory
– intellectual
– imaginary and
– emotional OE.

… in a nutshell…

In her third of three required literature tasks in the IHVO Certificate Course, the author deals with the often observed special emotional intensity of highly gifted children.

She combines her experiences at the kindergarten with the findings from the above-mentioned specialist literature.

Learning to appreciate special feelings

I am particularly interested in the latter, the special emotional sensitivity of gifted children. Gifted children often feel themselves as „out of order“ because they feel affected in situations that others overlook. Such children need help to accept and appreciate their special feelings. Otherwise there is a danger that their emotional tensions will lead to physical symptoms such as headaches or irritable stomachs.

Dabrowski describes that gifted children can perceive more stimuli than others – which I have also observed. At the same time, however, these children are often not yet able to „sort“ their many perceptions. Since sensory overload can lead to „inner chaos“, all children must learn to channel stimuli and set priorities. In my opinion, the gifted child also needs the support of adults for this.
For the work in the kindergarten it is necessary that teachers and parents are aware of these sensitivities, understand them correctly and can offer the child the necessary help.

High sensitivity as an opportunity

I find it positive that Dabrowski does not only consider the particularly pronounced sensitivities of gifted children to be stressful. He also sees a chance for the children to be able to achieve an individual personality concept at the highest level on the basis of these sensitivities – if things run optimally. This also depends on the reactions of the people who deal with these children on a daily basis.

My experience has shown that gifted children are particularly sensitive to interpersonal interactions. A change in vocal pitch or behaviour is perceived directly. They feel particularly intense and may suffer more – even in difficult situations that do not affect them personally.

The average is regarded as the standard

The process of emotional development is part of the development of the whole personality. I often have the impression that in our society we offer hardly any room for individuality. A tendency towards the norm, towards the middle, is clearly discernible. The average is the yardstick for „normal“ performance.
It is also clear what pressure gifted children are under, who often experience themselves as „different“.

Promoting unconventional strategies

In contrast to the average gifted, the strength of gifted people lies in their ability to achieve goals by other, sometimes unconventional means. Because kindergarten teachers and school teachers often only know or accept ready-made procedures and solutions, gifted children find it difficult to live and learn. They have too little room for individuality and creativity.
It would be desirable for teachers not only to tolerate unconventional strategies, but also to discuss and work out individual solutions with the children, to advance and encourage them.

High demands on pedagogues

I find it astonishing that even where there are school programmes for the gifted, the focus is on repeating facts, which inevitably means that the proportion of individual, creative work is lower than possible.

Working with gifted children and young people is a very demanding area. It demands not only a high level of commitment from the educator, but also innovative and flexible thinking.
If the strengths of the child, its divergent thinking and unconventional world view are not recognised and encouraged, self-esteem doubts, inner emptiness, boredom and – what I find particularly bad – loneliness grow.

Kindergarten teachers who are not trained in the field of giftedness often develop the feeling that the children are questioning their authority. This shows which personal prerequisites teachers have to bring with them in order to be able to understand and adequately advance gifted children – not only intellectually, but also emotionally. These questions should play a greater role in the training of kindergarten and school teachers.

Integrating the gifted

Gifted children have to be integrated without having to adapt them to the average norm under pressure. Gifted children and mostly their parents need „back support“ again and again.
An individual advancement of gifted children is only possible if one says goodbye to some given structures and thus offers room for new structures.

Again and again I have encountered the prejudices and myths about gifted children, which are also addressed in the book by Webb and others. And not only in my kindergarten, but also in our counselling network.

For the gifted child, it can have fatal consequences if, for example, it is mistakenly diagnosed as „hyperactive“. This makes it clear how little doctors often know about the subject of giftedness.
When I think about how many mistakes a gifted child can be at the mercy of and how serious the consequences can be, I see how important it is to further educate people about the phenomenon of giftedness.

Protecting children from isolation

Gifted children are often far ahead of their peers in terms of language usage, which leads to communication difficulties. This is why they often look for older children or adults to talk to. This can lead to little or no contact being established within the peer group.
Also in this context, the attitudes and actions of the adults who deal with the child are important. If, for example, parents are proud that the child exchanges ideas primarily with adults, they will hardly take the initiative to open up opportunities for the child to establish other relationships. The child threatens to isolate itself. This problem should be tackled at an early stage through targeted assistance from the adults involved (parents, educators, teachers) in order to support the child, enable a positive attitude towards life, and protect it from isolation and loneliness.

Avoiding excessive demands

Enlightenment is also necessary when adults – based on the intellectual maturity of the child – demand that it always behaves appropriately mature. His behaviour is age-appropriate: It can quarrel with siblings about toys, even if he may have dealt with nuclear energy shortly before… For many parents and other adults involved, this discrepancy is difficult to understand.

I find the thought that there should be something like an „optimal intelligence“ frightening. Does this mean that being intelligent is all well and good, but please only for as long as it is not uncomfortable or a challenge for others ?

Comment by the course instructor:
This concept of optimal intelligence, which appeared at Hollingworth as early as the 1940s, means that gifted people are often too far away to achieve anything significant and to gain recognition by their environment.
Of course, both are connected, as you also suggest in your critical question: If the very gifted person does not find access to similarly qualified people in time, then he may be prevented from being socially accepted and achieving great things. From this results – in our opinion already in kindergarten – the pedagogical task of bringing gifted children together with other gifted ones. In this way the course can be set towards understanding through others and socially recognized achievements.

On the one hand (intellectually) gifted children are neglected in and by our society: their abilities are not seen, they are often denied adequate support. On the other hand, attempts are made to press them into any norms. The energy used for this should be better translated into efforts to support the children and above all to understand them!

Comment by the course instructor:
Yes, and also the exceptionally highly gifted – which in our opinion can only be achieved through intensive mentoring.

In addition to emotional overload, however, gifted children still suffer above all from intellectual understrain: they spend a lot of time waiting: waiting for them to learn something new; waiting for others to come after them, even though the solution has long been clear to them. This certainly creates a lot of frustration.

The urge for self-determination and perfection

Gifted children strive especially for self-determination and perfection – as Dabrowski also emphasizes. Many of them demand the same rights as older people and often have a pronounced sense of justice.
In practice, the urge for self-determination should also be allowed in situations in which it is possible. However, if their ideas cannot be put into practice at the moment, it is necessary to talk to the children about it.

If the child strives strongly for perfection, one should help him on the one hand to be able to implement the ideas, but on the other hand also make him aware that some abilities need time to develop – even if „the head is already further ahead“. This applies, for example, to fine or gross motor skills.

Help in case of asynchronous development

Under the title „Hochbegabung: Fluch und Segen“ (Giftedness: Curse and Blessing), Webb and others describe more difficulties arising from asynchronous (temporally divergent) developments in the cognitive, emotional and physical realms, for example. Internal tensions and frustrations are cited as consequences, which in turn can lead to certain tasks or plans being abandoned or not being addressed at all.

Kindergarten teachers are then particularly challenged to accompany the child in its overall development with a high degree of sensitivity.

Gifted children are far ahead of their peers. This does not necessarily apply to all interests and abilities. In the kindergarten, it is easier for gifted children to find suitable children for their various interests. If the kindergarten teacher realises that the child has difficulties here, she can help them make contact or form interest groups.
See also: Advancement in Small Groups – Possibilities and Advantages

Especially with younger children such a mediation is helpful, because the older children do not always want to deal with younger ones on their own.

Learning to understand oneself

An important educational task for gifted children is to help them develop an understanding of themselves and their giftedness.
This becomes clear when a gifted child initially does not understand that other children are not interested in unusual topics with the same intensity. It is therefore not only a matter of supporting the child in his or her areas of interest, in his or her curiosity, and advancing it further. Conversations help the child to understand itself better and to experience that it is OK the way it is.

Gifted children sometimes deal with issues such as world peace or core moral issues. They are stunned by the fact that others do not share their curiosity and see content differently. Even if they understand the content because of their intellectual ability, this does not necessarily mean that they can process or understand it emotionally. So they must still learn, for example, that humans make also errors and solutions don’t evenly lie on the hand directly.

Confusing and at the same time enormously stressful can also be for these children: On the one hand adults cannot understand why the child argues with topics such as atomic energy and environmental protection, and on the other hand the same persons expect that it later on as an adult feels responsible for these topics.

The children need the support of adults to explain content and help them process and understand their feelings.

Difficult handling of double messages

Our society often sends out contradictory double messages on the subject of giftedness: On the one hand, young talents and gifts are highly valued and rewarded. On the other hand, adults repeatedly try to push gifted children into a „normal form“. It is easy to imagine how much the children suffer from this ambivalence. The ambiguous behaviour of adults affects their relationship and trust in them.

Like all children, the gifted also want to belong. This can lead them to define themselves about what they do best and then show this to the outside world. However, when it comes to intellectual achievement, it often triggers the known (negative) reactions of others.

Some children then change their strategy: in order not to attract attention, they keep their knowledge and skills „behind the scenes“. This again shows the dilemma in which gifted children find themselves.

It also happens that parents define their gifted child mainly by the performance it shows, and that the child consequently only attaches its own value to the performance. I can imagine very well what is triggered emotionally in this child if he is worried about not being able to live up to his own expectations or those of his parents.

Tragic refuge in solitude

I find it problematic and above all tragic when gifted children consciously withdraw from their peers. Out of fear of rejection, no attempt is made to make contacts at all. Webb and others write in this context about „loneliness as a refuge“, which could also become a „prison“.
That can only mean for me that such children are unhappy if they have no friends at all.

Although gifted children also seek loneliness in order to live out their creative abilities undisturbed, Webb and others continue to write. It makes no sense to force them into group activities.

Comment by the course instructor:
Instead of loneliness, we would prefer the term „temporary seclusion“.
We understand loneliness as the absence of other people to whom the individual has good connections. Even gifted people do not really seek this state. That fits also to your next sentences.

For me, the logical conclusion is that adults first have to find out what the children are interested in. Then projects or activities can be offered in which the gifted find other children who share their interests.

Against incomprehensible rules

Gifted children like to question rules, customs and traditions. If they are not logical to explain or are simply irrational, their logical thinking makes it difficult for them to accept these limits or rules.

It becomes particularly critical when adults, who nevertheless possess so much power (in the eyes of children), behave contradictorily in their opinions and attitudes. It seems equally incomprehensible when adults are unable to cope with problems whose solutions seem so obvious.

It is even more difficult for the gifted to understand that hardly anyone but themselves seems to notice this incompetence. I think these children doubt not only the adult, but sometimes themselves as well, depending on their self-esteem. It is understandable that such experiences can lead to existential crises at an early stage.

See also:
Disturbing Stupidity of the Adults.

An Extraordinary Little Girl, in particular the sections
6. Feelings / sensations and 10. Death and grief.


Date of publication in German: 2017, May
Copyright © Elke Keuler, see imprint.

Foreign Languages at Kindergarten

by Hanna Vock


Many parents (in Germany) wish that their child already learns English at kindergarten. There are two possibilities:
1. the child attends a bilingual kindergarten – of which there are not many – or 2. English is „offered“ in the „normal“ kindergarten. (Everything that is done here also applies to other foreign languages).

1. Bilingual kindergarten

For children who grow up bilingual at home, a bilingual kindergarten can be a good complement to the domestic bilingual world. It is irrelevant whether bilingualism has arisen because a family has immigrated and now wants to cultivate the child’s language of origin in addition to the new colloquial German, or whether the child grows up in a family in which the father and mother speak different mother tongues. In any case, the child receives a lot of input in both languages both at home and in kindergarten and can practice both languages daily.

In both languages the child also speaks to people close to him or her and who are emotionally significant for the child.

If a child, from about three years of age, attends a bilingual kindergarten without having learned the second language, it is in a more difficult situation, as it often will not be able to express emotionally significant things (unlike other children in the group) spontaneously or even understand them.

Here, attentive and careful pedagogical work that takes this into account is all the more important. But there is also a wide field for social learning among the children, who are sensitised to the needs of the children who are still lagging behind and can help in acute situations.

This problem will be defused if it is ensured to a large extent that a teacher of each language can always be addressed by the children.

For gifted children and especially for linguistically highly gifted children, attending a bilingual kindergarten can be a suitable cognitive and linguistic challenge.

It should always be checked whether the kindergarten only scores with bilingualism or whether other play and learning areas are also represented at a high level. Above all: Is it a place for children where they can live out all their important childhood needs?

See also: Quality Criteria for the Advancement of Gifted Pre-School Children in Kindergarten

2. Offers in the regular kindergarten

Even in normal regular kindergartens, kindergarten teachers are confronted with the demand of parents to offer English, for example.

If an English native speaker is one of the teachers, or a teacher who speaks the language very well for other reasons, then she can always playfully incorporate English into her normal work.

Some parents, however, have other ideas. They want a regular course within the kindergarten day that systematically teaches language skills.

When I was head of a parents‘ initiative kindergarten, I’ve been stormed with exactly this wish from time to time. This happened with reference to the irreplaceable language learning opportunities at kindergarten age.

And these were the considerations that I then threw into the debate at parents‘ evenings:

In the kindergarten we see as our task,
– firstly, to let the children experience that there are different languages,
– secondly, to listen to and try out the sound of other languages,
– third, to see that some languages use completely different characters, and
– fourthly, to make it clear to them that children who (still) have difficulties with the German language often have a good command of another language (which gives these children a better standing in the group).

One must be aware of this – and should tell the parents that occasional playful contact with English (or another language) does not lead to clear language acquisition. Single words that have been learned in this way are almost always forgotten. This is especially the case if
– a time gap of two or more years arises after attending kindergarten, i.e. if only in the 3rd grade or even later English lessons will take place again, or if
– English is not spoken in the home environment.

Children who are not particularly linguistically gifted would be overburdened by an intensive learning programme, especially if neither German nor English is their mother tongue. (Children with a special talent for languages could, however, cope well with such a programme).

The accent-free learning of another language, which is often desired by the parents, only succeeds if the child is gifted for it and / or surrounded by the language at an early age.
It will then still be of importance which English the child comes into contact with (British, American, Australian, Canadian … English). This „accent-free“ English will be learnt by the child.
Here the question also arises: How important is it to master a foreign language without an accent?

If we want to employ a native speaker on a permanent basis, this is a cost factor. If, however, only children whose parents could pay this could participate, it would be very unsocial.

If we entrust the English course to someone from outside, we have to accept time restrictions for our very own pedagogical work: Projects have to be interrupted and we have to get the children out of the game. This is not in the sense of our pedagogical concept.
(See: An „Old“ Concept – Complete Version (German version))

In the evaluation of numerous studies, science has found that

– who would have thought that –

that in bilingual kindergartens „…intensive playful learning of the foreign language, considerable foreign language acquisition as well as the age-appropriate acquisition of the mother tongue takes place, … if the programme offers a suitable environment for this and implements very specific pedagogical principles.“
(Kristin Kersten, Frühes Fremdsprachenlernen in bilingualen Kindertagesstätten – Forschungsprojekt Elias  /  Kristin Kersten, Early Foreign Language Learning in Bilingual Day Care Centers – research project ELIAS, in: news & science. Promotion of the gifted and research on giftedness, published by: Austrian Centre for Gifted Education and Research (ÖZBF), Issue 1, 2012, p. 15.)

In the following, important factors for success there are mentioned:
„…a start as early as possible, a long duration of the programme, a high intensity of contact with the foreign language and high-quality input“.

All this can hardly be guaranteed under the normal working conditions of a regular kindergarten, unless other important areas are neglected.

See also: Improving Framework Conditions! (German version)

In my opinion, similar reservations apply to English courses outside kindergarten, i.e. commercial courses, as listed under 2 to 4.

Experience shows that gifted children rarely get their money’s worth here, because the learning speed for them is too low, (under certain circumstances much too low).

3. What is possible and useful – and what is done in many kindergartens

Due to the internationality of many kindergartens and intercultural projects, the children learn in their daily kindergarten routine that there are different languages, for example when they hear mother and child speak Spanish during pick-up.
Children who are gifted with languages – and therefore particularly interested in languages – listen more closely here.

In many morning circles the children greet each other multilingually. Important words such as „going out“ or „lunch“ can be used in several languages. Creative kindergarten teachers who enjoy foreign languages themselves can think of many other key words for everyday kindergarten life…

A course, such as „We sing songs in three languages“, can enrich everyday kindergarten life and inspire children who are interested in languages.

A kindergarten teacher turned her enthusiasm for the British royal family into a course, which naturally included a number of English expressions.

Such activities are within the framework of the kindergarten’s above-mentioned tasks with regard to foreign languages.

Three very different projects with especially gifted children can be found here:

Murat Wants to Learn: Math Problems with a Minus and English (German version)

About the Book: Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

Cologne Speak in Kindergarten (German version)


Literature recommendation:

(Title and/or availability in English translation could not be determined)

Elke Burkhardt Montanari, Wie Kinder zweisprachig aufwachsen. Ein Ratgeber. Hrsg. vom Verband binationaler Familien und Partnerschaften. (How children grow up bilingual. A guidebook. Published by the Association of Binational Families and Partnerships.)

Colin Baker, Zweisprachigkeit zu Hause und in der Schule. Ein Handbuch für Erziehende. (Bilingualism at Home and at School. A handbook for educators. Also available in Turkish.)


Date of publication in German: 2017, June
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see imprint.