Fantastic article on the NAGC website: The Dos and Don'ts of Instruction: What It Means To Teach Gifted Learners Well by Carol Ann Tomlinson, Ed. D, at the University of Virginia. My favorite part is this:
"6) Instruction for gifted learners is inappropriate when it is rooted in novel, "enriching" or piecemeal learning experiences. If a child were a very talented pianist, we would question the quality of her music teacher if the child regularly made toy pianos, read stories about peculiar happenings in the music world, and did word-search puzzles on the names of musicians. Rather, we would expect the student to work directly with the theory and performance of music in a variety of forms and at consistently escalating levels of complexity. We would expect the young pianist to be learning how a musician thinks and works, and to be developing a clear sense of her own movement toward expert-level performance in piano. Completing word-search puzzles, building musical instruments and reading about oddities in the lives of composers may be novel, may be "enriching,"(and certainly seems lacking in coherent scope and sequence, and therefore sounds piecemeal). But those things will not foster high-level talent development in music. The same hold true for math, history, science, and so on."
This really struck a chord (pardon the pun) with me because Wolfie is taking a "gifted" Medieval Studies course right now and they want him to do "fun" things like "Make your own coat of arms" and "Draw and label the parts of a Viking longboat." Is he tested on any of these things? No, because there's a list of 5-10 and he's supposed to pick two. The school doesn't even want to see the projects. I have a hard time requiring him to do them since they're not graded and not "fun."
Don't get me wrong. Some of the projects are fun and some hands-on stuff cements learning and understanding. But boy, do I have a hard time forcing the boys to do things like extraneous science "activities", that are neither fun nor educational at their core. I've been guilty of this, too, both as a teacher and as a parent. Just because I think it would be fun to write a diary as a literary or historical figure, that doesn't mean everyone in my class will. Hopefully, by passing this article around, other teachers will realize the difference between gifted education and gifted filling-up-time, too.