It feels a bit strange posting in this forum because I am not even sure if my DS is technically gifted but I posted here anyway because I'm sure a lot of you have dealt with this in one form of another.
DS is in Kindergarten right now. We've always known that he was academically advanced than the rest of his peers but to what extent, we really didn't know until our last P/T conferences. The teacher said that he was at least at a 6th grade level for reading and Math was at least 2-3 grades above. When we were discussing placement for next year (there are 2 classrooms... one is a pure 1st Grade and the other is a multi-age Gr. 1-2), we asked if she thinks he may be better suited for the mixed group since there might be a greater variance of work as opposed to the single grade classroom. She said that it probably does not matter since he is way above a 2nd grade level at this point so any adjustments that the pure 1st Grade teacher may do for him will have to be done by the teacher of the mixed age classroom anyway.
The Kindergarten teacher does a bit of differentiation with him in the classroom right now but she feels that his social interactions are this year's theme (at least for him). He really hasn't been exposed to a lot of kids before school so this is an adjustment for him. He doesn't have any major social issues. Just the subtle things of learning how to enter into play with others, being with a large group, etc. From talking to the teacher, it seems that the general nature of kindergarten in his school is a lot of learning about the social aspects of school, etc. There is a lot of play involved and hands-on work so DS is not bored because even if it's a subject he knows about already, it is covered in different ways (through art, movement, etc).
So I guess my question is, what should we be expecting in the years to come for him? Is there anything we should be doing at this point? Should we (the school and parents) be formulating some sort of a plan for him for the future?
I understand that he is making great strides in the social department but I wonder if these are mutually exclusive (social vs academic)? Why is there not so much a concern for him progressing academically?
Thank you for reading through.
Yes, it's a good idea to look forward and create some kind of academic plan. He will definitely need some kind of differentiation in regular primary classroom. If he is that far advanced, at some point he will probably benefit from some form of acceleration - either subject acceleration for specific courses like language arts or math or full grade acceleration. At the very least, talking to the teacher and principal now will give you some indication of how accommodating the school will be in the future.
For the next year, if those 2 classes are the only options, I'd ask for a placement with whichever teacher is likely to provide the most individual differentiation for him next year. The teacher for the Gr. 1/2 split may have been chosen to teach that class because s/he is more organized, more flexible, more prepared to extend curriculum for her/his students' needs, and better able to manage delivering 2 grades' worth of curriculum. So she may be more inclined to seek out differentiation opportunities for an exceptionally advanced student. OTOH, maybe s/he had less seniority in the union and s/he got stuck with the split class no one else wanted. Possibly, the teacher of the full 1st grade class will have more time to work with an advanced student because s/he isn't already managing 2 sets of curriculum. A lot will depend on the teaching style and personality of the teacher.
Also ask about the composition of the classes. It would be nice if the school could create a cluster of advanced students within one class, so they could form a peer group. There may be other small advantages to one class or the other. Split classes are often slightly smaller than full grade classes. In a split grade class, the students are often selected because they are independent workers who can cope while the teacher divides her/his time. Another wrinkle is whether there is standardized testing in either of those 2 grades. IME, when one half of a split grade class has standardized testing at some point during the year, because they are getting attention and intense test prep, the other half (who are not doing the test) are a little neglected.
If you haven't yet started, it's good to prepare yourself by investigating what kind of options are available at the school and in your school system. Even if there isn't a gifted program, it's helpful to know what kinds of accommodations have been used to meet advanced students' needs. If there is a gifted program, then find out what grade it starts, what the admission criteria are, how it operates (pull out, full time, cluster grouping etc.), what kind of teaching methods are used and other information to decide whether it's appropriate for your child. Good luck.
I think it's quite alright to let this year continue on as it is as long as he's happy and engaged in some manner. My youngest played all through kindergarten and it was what he needed at that time. Come first grade, his academic interests took over and so, accommodations needed to be made.
I would still recommend the combo class, not for the academics but for the environment and children. A natural grade of average kids has a spectrum of kids from a year advanced to a year behind. In the combo, it's likely there will be 2nd graders who are at least the 3rd grade level. Often, with reading, by 2nd grade there are a good chunk of kids who are reading novels above grade level whether they are gifted or not. The gifted child may be reading 5 grades advanced but because they are young, may still be attracted to the same novels their friends are. Not only will the spectrum of work available to him be wider but the kids pay less attention to whose doing what work. Plus, in our experience, kids placed in combos tend to be the independent workers and the teachers tend to be strong. Now, there are some poorly set-up combos so find out how they are placing kids but we've experienced a few and they've been positive places for our kids whether they were the youngest or the oldest in the class.
Take it year by year with your son. What works one year, may not work the next. I'd certainly look into any future options and do what needs to be done for him to qualify for them (even if you choose not to go that route in the end.) My own kids did not progress steadily. They had years where they were advanced but really seemed to either stagnate or progress at a normal rate. Accommodation was easier those years. Then, they'd have periods of rapid growth that left their teachers (and us) breathless for trying to keep up. I couldn't have predicted their trajectory. If what he's doing now is working for your DS great! Certainly take a hard look at the options for next year and make a plan.
Married mom, DD 18, DS 15, and a Valentine's surprise on the way!
Thanks for your input. I did forget to mention that I wasn't thinking of asking for enrichment for this schoolyear. I'm really happy with how Kindergarten is progressing and I just kind of want to get my ducks in a row for next year.
Unfortunately, we live in a state where there is no GATE funding. Each school district is responsible for implementing (or not implementing) a gifted program. The district has one but from what I have heard, is not very good and is just something that keeps kids busy as opposed to forwarding their academic interests.
Another reason why I am fretting so early is that DS is in a charter school and I understand that charter schools make certain decisions differently from non-charter public schools. I know this is totally putting the horse before the cart but should acceleration be appropriate for him at some point, I'm not sure if the school can accommodate that because they are very strict about honoring the pre-determined classroom numbers. It feels weird to be worrying about that because I'm not even sure where DS will be (academically) 2 yrs from now but I feel like if I need to switch schools, I'd rather do it sooner than later.
I guess I need help asking for specific questions rather than a blanket "DS is academically advanced, what accommodations do you have for him?"
I apologize for the naivete of this request. I am new to the US educational system. My own educational experience in my home country is very limited as I have only gone to schools for the gifted so my point of view is very one-sided.