Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Asynchrony: The Teacher's Bane

Wouldn't it be nice if kids really did mature in lockstep with each other? Then all those graded curricula and "What your Nth Grader Needs to Know" would make sense. Unfortunately, kids, particularly gifted kids, don't even mature evenly within themselves, much less in step with their peers. This is true for neuro-typical (NT) kids, too, but I think gifted kids have it particularly bad.

Maybe I just feel this way because I've got two who are twice-exceptional (2e). Klaus is going in for another round of neuropsychological testing tomorrow morning because we (his grownups) all agree there's something wrong with him, but nobody seems to know what it is. ADD, anxiety, depression, bipolar, perfectionism, OCD, eye-teaming issues, all or some combination of the above? Who knows?

Xavier is probably back at or slightly above grade-level on math and writing, but I'm still hesitant to plunge him into a high school class for fear of setting him up to fail. Even Wolfie can comprehend and write at an upper high school/early college level but the upper high school work requirements, in terms of what is due on a weekly basis, are a huge burden for him.

So, what to do when the ability to comprehend far outstrips the ability to produce? If we pour as much into the little brain as it can hold but don't expect commensurate product, is that not training them to do as little as necessary to get by? Just what is the cosmic point of being able to learn more and faster than you can produce?


efrvsnt said...

Lessa -- I love this. I have a conjecture about the issue, based not on research but on observation of my own life and that of children I've known.

I liken it to when infants are learning language -- for a long time, their receptive vocabulary is orders of magnitude larger than their expressive vocabulary (excepting those who learn sign as early communication, where it isn't orders of magnitude, but there's still a gap there).

I think the brain takes it in and takes it in and takes it in, and then when it's stirred it around a bit and made it all make sense together, that's when you get output -- kids can't help but provide output, when they're given the opportunity to process things at their own pace.

One way I think you could facilitate the idea of future output, and thus not encourage the 'get by with the minimum possible work' mentality, would be to do predictive sorts of activities that don't necessarily have any measurable outcome, but that keep the brain working toward a culmination, albeit in the background.

Engagement is essential, of course, but that can be easily fostered through questions that link new material to one's own life and what one already knows. And then, questions about what those connections are, what they mean, etc., can help to continue that engagement process.

And all along the way, questions that point toward an end, like, 'Huh. I wonder how you could demonstrate all those connections that you see.' Stuff like that could convey the importance of communicating mastery, while allowing that communication to happen in the child's time, and in the child's way.

So, my inexpert single answer to all of your questions is that even the brainiest brains need time to percolate -- it only makes sense, given the volume of information that has to be processed to make any sort of meaningful product.


Crimson Wife said...

I don't think this is just an issue with 2E kids, though they likely have it worse than other gifted kids. The big issue my DD struggles with is the discrepancy between her cognitive abilities and her motor skills. Writing in particular is a sticking point for her. She's strongest verbally and she gets so frustrated when she has difficulty putting all the ideas she has down on paper. I offer to let her dictate it to me, but she's so independent that she wants to do it *HERSELF*


The Princess Mom said...

Writing is an issue for Xavier, too. Plus he blanks when he's asked a "discussion question." (He's a visual learner and just takes more time to process than others.) To his credit, he chose to take the high school version of Mythology Alpha from The Lukeion Project instead of the middle school/independent study version, even knowing the high school version requires note-taking, online quizzes and two 3-4 page papers.

I'm probably freaking out about nothing. Wolfie is taking the class, too, so they can study together, but I'm so worried he's going to end up feeling badly about himself.