Giftedness is ASYNCHRONOUS development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases the higher the intellectual capacity. Children with this kind of learning and personality profile require modifications in parenting, teaching and counseling in order to develop optimally (adapted from The Columbus Group Gifted Development Center).
While the student population varies slightly by classroom, approximately 20-25% of WHPS students are identified as gifted or highly gifted. The program and curriculum are specially designed around the needs of gifted learners, with the understanding that deeper and more connected learning strategies and curriculum are good for all children. The program emphasizes learning by exploration and through a wide range of educational strategies, underpinned by a strong social-emotional curriculum. Parents report that they prefer the idea of having their gifted child in a classroom with other typically developing children.
We use curriculum designed for gifted learners, with tools for acceleration and depth of learning, such as the Columbia Teachers College Reading & Writing Project TCRWP program, Project-Based Learning (PBL) and Inquiry-Based Learning. Math and science start with a hands-on approach before moving into abstract concepts. Students are given the opportunity to explore areas of interest in sufficient depth to satisfy their sense of discovery, while tying concepts to the real world and helping students see the relevance to their life.
We use like-learner grouping for reading, writing, spelling and math. With this approach, students are grouped based on their academic level (not necessarily by grade level). For science and social studies, we use a PBL approach, grouping children by grade level (not always by ability level). We believe it is important for gifted students to work with a wide variety of peers, and doing a messy science project, for example, doesn’t require all the children to read or do math at at the same level.
Leadership Notebooks and individual SMART goal setting—a hallmark of the WHPS program—enables students to work at their own advanced pace in areas of strength and define clear, specific goals for success in all areas. Students are grouped with like-learners, based on their learning needs and social-emotional levels. Adjustments are made for individual learning styles and personalities.
Gifted students generally have strengths or talents in one or occasionally two areas. Below are six of the most common areas of giftedness. No child will be gifted in all six, but some may be in more than one area. Within the academic realms, students usually have one or two subjects that they are best in and passionate about.
- General Intellectual Ability
- Specific Academic Ability
- Creative Thinking
- Visual & Performing Arts
It is important for parents, teachers and schools to understand that one size does not fit all for gifted children. Even two same age children with similar IQ scores may not have similar skills, personalities, rates of development, abilities, or interests. The individual traits of one gifted child may be extremely different from another. And, the more highly gifted the gifted child, the more asynchronous s/he may be. More on asynchronous development and tips for parents and teachers.
There are five areas in which gifted children exhibit intense behaviors, also known as OEs: psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational. Gifted children tend to have multiple intensities, although one is usually dominant. The social-emotional curriculum and learning environment are designed with these OEs in mind, and the school works with each family to identify and support children in these areas.
WHPS does not require gifted testing or IQ testing. The school serves many children with IQ 140+; IQ on its own does not change the instructional approach. We believe it is more important to work with each child to understand and develop individual strengths, interests and areas of giftedness. Often, a formal evaluation of intellectual function can help inform individual student goals or adjustments to the program. If your child has not already had an evaluation, we have a list of professionals to whom we refer our families. Before pursuing a formal evaluation, we suggest meeting with our Principal, Preschool Director or Head of School to discuss your questions and goals so we can match you with the right professional.
While our school does not require IQ testing, we do screen all new applicants and work with the family to determine ideal class placement. The admissions screening includes a student and family interview, as well as a battery of assessments looking at cognitive strengths, processing, memory and other areas depending on age/grade level.