Pre-School and Kindergarten Programs

The young high-potential learner (ages 3 - 8) can be a source of joy and wonder in today's schools. A child enters our lives with many hopes and dreams.  Yet, because few school-based advanced programs exist for this age group, few teachers have the necessary training to notice or serve this population.  Undeniably children come to us with many strengths and interests and it is everyone's responsibility to attend to the potential and promise in all children.  The challenge is how to best to provide the flexibility to serve this unique population of gifted students.  

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has proposed the following "best practices" for meeting the learning needs of all young children. Let's see how we can begin to intertwine these recommendations with what gifted education practices have to offer:

*Environments Are Least Restrictive

Activities and projects are student-centered and student-driven.  For instance, a child may want more time to interact with a center that really inspires them.  A teacher may want to give that child more time to look at a book about dinosaurs or another topic that captures their imagination.

Download "The Importance of Being Early: A Case for Preschool Enrichment" by Ken W. McKluskey from Parenting for High Potential, 2000

and "What Do we Need to Know about Children who have Already Mastered Pre-school or Kindergarten Skills Prior to Entering the Classroom?"  from Connecting for High Potential, 2006.

*Services Are Family-Centered 

Parents are the first to recognize their child's strengths and interests.  Teachers are often surprised when they open the lines of communication with parents.  Through an interest survey, a teacher may find that a student has been taking riding lessons since the age of 14 months or helping to repair a car with their parent at home.

For more information:

"Differentiated Instruction for Young Gifted Children: How Parents Can Help"   by Joan Franklin Smutny.  Parenting for High Potential, 2004.

*Service Delivery is Collaborative

Collaborative efforts among gifted, general, and special education programs promote the strengths of all school programs.

*Practices Are Both Empirical and Value-Driven

Purposeful pre-service and in-service training in gifted education  does help a teacher meet the different needs of her students. Training can significantly increase the teacher's ability to structure observation of the children in class, build creative learning environments, create activites that strengthen problem solving skills, and provide information for meeting the individual needs of students. 

*Practices Are Both Developmental and Individually Appropriate

There is much to be gained from the field of child development.  Children need to be actively involved in their own learning and we have to meet each child where he or she is developmentally. For instance, while some children are not yet capable of abstract thought and need to learn in more concrete ways, it is important for the teacher to know when other children are able to move more quickly  to the abstract and to provide ways for them to get there.

For more information:

Early Childhood Gifted Education (Practical Strategies in Gifted Education) by Frances A. Karnes, Kristen R Stephens, and Nancy Hertzog, available from Prufrock Press.

Challenging Exceptionally Bright Children in Early Childhood Classrooms by Ann Gadzikowki helps teachers know what it means to be exceptionally bright in pre-school and how to guide those children effectively.