First, Best, or Different

My husband has always said this about sales – you need to get to market “first, best or different”. He means, first with a new product to market; making the best version of the product; or making your product identifiably different! All these can maximise sales.

The same three words could describe gifted students. Are they often first to understand? Is their work generally up to a personal high standard in some area? Do they sometimes interpret the question with a different understanding and produce something unique? These three factors can be what distinguishes them from an average student.

First and best are the lesser two categories that cause problems. The “different” space is the area I want to address. Sometimes your student will create something totally opposite to what you are expecting. It is not good to simply check against your required criteria and dismiss their work as not up to standard.

It is very important to look again at your achievement objectives, and try to see where the student has misinterpreted your instructions.

Creative minds will often read your words with a very different meaning to what you had intended. I believe it is the writer’s responsibility to make sure the instructions are understood by all the readers. If there is any ambiguity and the creative student inadvertently goes off on their own tangent, then we have to accept the possibility and credit them accordingly.

I make a point of checking in with my creatively gifted students early on in the activity, so that if creativity is not the goal, but a required display of certain language criteria, then I will see that they will cover the criteria, even if they haven’t started out as I would have expected. I try to mould the objectives to suit their creativity, rather than simply see their work as not following my expectations.

Example: I may ask a Year 3 class to write a recount about their last seven days of the school holidays. I may want to see the use of time-sequenced words like after, before, following this …, or later, in the context of a recounted narrative. However, they might write it as a diary with date entries, that all start in this format – “Tuesday, 29 Jaunuary, 2008: Today, I …”. If this happens, I can suggest they use their time sequencing throughout each day’s entry. Example: “Later today, I …” or “I went to the movies after we had lunch today.”

I know we sometimes do it unintentionally, but it is not helpful to show disapproval to these students who are prone to getting the instructions “wrong” or different to what we had intended. They quite often live with continual misunderstanding, of themselves and their actions, which can be quite devastating to their self-esteem.

Next time you give instructions that are misconstrued, politely ask the question – When you read the instructions, what were you thinking about? In the example above, it might be they had just been given a new diary for their birthday, and they were really keen to write diary entries. Their creative mind may have overlooked the fact you had just been teaching the recount genre for the last two weeks!

Isn’t it true, that the funniest home videos we often see, are those that make fun of somebody doing something inappropriate in a particular place – like Mr Bean’s antics! Our gifted children can be super-sensitive to hurt feelings, and seemingly being out-of-step with their peers. Don’t make it worse for them by penalising them for their creativity in the classroom!

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About Debbie Smith

New Zealand Educator interested in online education, giftedness, and other special needs in education.
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