Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Catering to the needs of our brightest pupils.....

Research has proved that the brightest children are often not those who come top of their classes – often these children underachieve, become the class clowns or spend their days working out just how far they can try their teacher’s patience. They do that because they can! Being bright means that they can work out just how little they can do to pass each grade, and unless they are motivated, they continue to do as little as possible throughout their schooldays.

Pinelands North treats these children differently. Besides being given work that motivates them to achieve, they also need counselling and a set of social skills to help them cope in an unfriendly world. Bright children are often not accepted by their peers because they view the world differently and see things others don’t. Giving clever children more work in class, of the same type, is certainly not going to motivate them to achieve what they could.

Our Creative and Talented programme includes six months with our learning support co-ordinator to build self esteem, discuss friendship issues and learn to deal with authority successfully. This part of the programme makes Pinelands North unique in the Western Cape – some southern suburbs schools provide extension for bright children but none focus on the skills needed in society which are often lacking in exceptionally bright people! 

Besides this six month semester, pupils focus on thinking skills and learn to be creative in multi-age classes once a week. They also have a small group lesson where they learn how to research and to record evidence of learning.

By the middle of this year, our grade 5 to 7 pupils were writing a fourteen paragraph essay comparing the world of 2000 with the world of 2010. All they were given to write the essay was an A3 page of pictorial data! They had already written their autobiographies, and produced a book of very intricate paper mechanisms. The grade 3 and 4 pupils studied oliogochaetology, conducted experiments to discover how worms move, see and smell, and used Science kits to discover sound, weather, magnetism and energy.

In their small groups in the library, pupils have done problem solving, general knowledge, number puzzles and have researched from historical resources. They have also learnt to ask questions that require complex answers and figure out puzzles that play tricks on the eyes! In the counselling section of the programme, the children have grappled with terms like ‘normal’, ‘perfectionism’  and ‘self esteem’, and how to define these terms. They have had an opportunity to discuss what they are particularly curious about, and come to understand that often asking a question, is more important than knowing the answer! Children have been challenged to articulate how and why they have particular feelings and have then been given opportunities to share their feelings in a safe place.

For the first time in their lives, these children now feel understood and accepted, and have better coping skills with which to survive an often hostile world. One child reported this year that ‘the only way he gets through every week is that he has Creative and Talented lessons on Fridays!’ What would he have done if he hadn’t been at Pinelands North Primary?

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