Expert Advice

How to Move Son on to More Challenging Schoolwork

Gifted and Talented Expert Advice from Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D.

Q
My son's first-grade teacher says he is one of the brightest kids in the class. However, he refuses to do some of the schoolwork. She said she would like to give him more challenging work to do, but can't if he can't do the regular classwork. How should I handle this?
A
This is often a problem. The key is in three little words: "know," "show," and "go." The rule works like this: If your son knows something, or knows how to do something, he must show this to his teacher (with one or two examples -- not the whole worksheet), proving that he understands the knowledge and has the skill. Once he has shown mastery, he is allowed to go on to something more complex, interesting, or self-selected. For example: The class is working on re-grouping in math, and your son can do this without the extra practice. He would show his mastery by doing three "hard problems," then he would be allowed to work on math challenges or computer math games. This should help with both the teacher's need to feel secure in your son's progress and your son's need to move on when he's ready. Good luck .
Mary Ruth Coleman is the director of Project U-STARS (Using Science Talent and Abilities to Recognize Students) at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Coleman has taught in both general and gifted educational programs in both public and private schools.

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