Should Gifted Students Learn an Instrument?
When I was a young child I was forced into piano lessons. Each time I protested, my mother said, “You will thank us when you get older.” The funny thing is that I do now thank my parents, but it took me many years to get to that stage.
With my own children, I took a different approach. I told each of them that they would only be allowed to take piano as long as they practiced. One of them took me up on it and one did not.
If you do an Internet search on “children music lessons benefits” you will find a plethora of reasons why young people should pursue an instrument. At the very least, learning an instrument helps round out a young person’s general experiences, helps him to better understand the music that is heard every day, promotes discipline and persistence, and helps with motor skills. Gifted children have the potential to gain a lot from music lessons.
In Lessons for Life
, Matthew Erikson, a Star-Telegram
staff writer, discusses the value of having a child learn an instrument. He also acknowledges the difficulty parents have working their way through the maze of choices. Some of the points he covers are:
When do you know if your child is ready for music lessons?
First, your young person should be able to:
- follow instructions,
- recite the alphabet, and
- concentrate for 30 minutes.
Parents need to be:
- ready for a long-term commitment, including weekly trips to the teacher’s studio and supervising at-home practice; and
- willing to stick with lessons for 6-12 months to evaluate the child’s progress.
How do you choose the right instrument for your child?
- Parents should expose young children to a wide variety of sounds. Kids often gravitate toward musical instruments they’ve been around. Family concerts performed by orchestras are good venues for exposure.
- Wind and brass instruments can be a poor match for a young child’s small lips.
- Some people believe that the piano offers a good foundation.
- Don’t get caught up in stereotypes of boys playing big, noisy instruments and girls playing softer, more delicate instruments.
- Respect your child’s choice.
- Be practical. What kind of instruction is available in your area and how far are you willing to drive?
How much will it cost?
Costs of instruments can vary widely.
- Decent upright piano--$1,000
Many band instruments can be rented from music stores for $20-30/month, with the option to buy.
A very cheap instrument can actually be harder to play.
Lessons will probably run $30-60/hour, but may be a lot more in some areas of the country. A good teacher will be much more skilled at instructing your child.
How do you find the right teacher?
The first teacher your child has is essential in setting the right tone and establishing good playing habits, so research this well.
You and your youngster may want to first observe a lesson to make certain you are comfortable with the way the teacher interacts with students.
To find a teacher, check out the Web site for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA)
for a list of questions to ask. On the same Web page, you will find a box to fill out to find a certified music teacher in your area.
Quality Summer Opportunities for Gifted Students
I'm so excited to tell you about Prufrock's newest release, The Ultimate Guide to Summer Opportunities for Teens: 200 Programs That Prepare You for College Success. I think this book is a fantastic addition to our line because it focuses on quality summer learning experiences.
Record numbers of teens are applying to selective universities and the competition to gain entrance into college is tougher than ever before. With today's teens becoming increasingly more involved in college preparation, their summers are no longer filled with days by the pool or hours of TV and video games. The Ultimate Guide to Summer Opportunities for Teens: 200 Programs That Prepare You for College Success helps teenagers find the coolest, most exciting, and most fulfilling summer programs across the United States.
The author, college-planning expert Sandra L. Berger, provides students and parents with advice on using summer opportunities to help gain entrance into selective universities, and guidance on researching, choosing, applying for, and making the most out of summer programs.
In this directory, students will be able to explore more than 200 of the best summer opportunities in the areas of
- academic enrichment;
- fine arts;
- internships and paid positions;
- leadership and service;
- math, science, computer science, and technology; and
- study abroad or international travel.
In preparing this book, my staff helped the author build a database of more than 1,000 great programs for kids. Then, through careful evaluation by the author, that list was culled down to a little more than 200 exemplary programs for teens.
I'm proud to announce this fine new resource for parents, teachers, counselors, and students that features the very best programs designed for college-bound teens.
The Label of Gifted Education
About 2 ½ years ago, one of my blog entries was titled The Label of Gifted: Is There a Better Way?
You might want to revisit it and also look at the reader comments that follow the article. Today I am no closer to an answer to the question about the label of “gifted.”
In a recent Washington Post
article, Labels Aren’t What Kids Need
, high school English teacher Patrick Welsh brought up a number of issues about identification and programming for gifted education that are worth considering.
One of the problems with the term is that educators and parents often look at kids as gifted or not gifted, rather than looking at abilities on a continuum. Can a gifted program meet the needs of all able children? Can the needs of a highly gifted child be met in a regular gifted program? What happens to the child who is very capable in math but not in language arts? What happens to the youngster who is intensely interested in geography, but the gifted program is designed for more mainstream subjects?
Kids who are selected for a particular program often are given enrichment activities, from which all students would probably benefit. While the students in the gifted program may be capable of moving more quickly or studying a topic more in depth, can you understand why the parent of a “regular student” may want his less capable child to also be exposed to this enrichment?
How does a school handle the problem of some parents regarding the label of gifted as a status symbol? (Note: I am not saying that the kids are not very capable, but I am saying that SOME parents regard the label as a status symbol without truly understanding the real needs of a small percentage of students.)
How do we handle the affective consequences of labeling, both for students who are identified and students who are not? As Welsh states in his article, “When we apply this tag to a tiny group of children . . . we are in effect saying that the rest are ungifted and untalented. We’re denigrating hard work and perseverance, telling children that no matter how much effort they put forth, they just can’t measure up to their special peers.”
“Just as bad, we’re telling those on whom we deign to bestow the coveted label that they have it made; we’re giving them an overblown sense of their intellectual abilities and setting them up to fall short when they face real challenges later . . . What most parents don’t realize is that the gifted label can harm not only those who don’t receive it, but also those who do.” (See the research of Carol Dweck.)
Welsh goes on to suggest a highly sensitive topic: “. . . school administrators are caught in a political and moral trap. They have to assure mostly white middle-class parents, who provide most of the tax dollars for the schools, that their children can progress academically without being held back by lower-income kids.” Can we be honest with ourselves? How much of this is true?
When I was a kid, the term gifted was foreign to my ear. Everyone did, however, agree that some kids were very smart in some areas. Some kids were even very smart in all areas. At least in the district where I went to school, the system may have done a better job of trying to challenge all of the students all of the time.
There obviously is no perfect solution to the controversy of the label “gifted” and how it should be handled. But, let’s not shut the door on some of the realities of the dilemma by feigning to believe that there must be a perfect solution.
New History Fair Project Handbook Released by Prufrock Press
If you are involved with students in grades 6-12 and want to engage them with hands-on history projects, Prufrock has just released an exciting resource for you.
Thousands of students across the nation each year participate in history fairs at the local, regional, and national level. Until now, however, these students and their parents and teachers have had to rely on their own ingenuity and skill to develop history fair projects. Creating Award-Winning History Fair Projects: The Complete Handbook for Teachers, Parents, and Students fills that gap. This exciting new release provides all of the following:
- successful tips for developing exciting projects,
- practical tools for middle school and high school,
- strategies for organizing and planning, and
- ready-to-use planners and student handouts.
The only comprehensive guide of its kind, Creating Award-Winning History Fair Projects also gives teachers and administrators tips for organizing and conducting history fairs at the local level to showcase their students' work. The author, an experienced regional history fair coordinator, judge, and coach, provides teachers, parents, and students everything they need to ensure blue-ribbon success!
To find out more about this exciting new social studies resource or to browse samples of the book's inside pages, please visit the Creating Award-Winning History Fair Projects Web page.
SAT Exam, Taken at Age 13, Can Predict Career Path of Gifted
A new study from Vanderbilt University finds that the future career path and creative direction of gifted youth can be predicted well by their performance on the SAT at age 13. The study offers insights into how best to identify the nation’s most talented youth, offering opportunities for educators and policymakers to develop programs to cultivate these individuals.
The current study looked at the educational and professional accomplishments of 2,409 adults who had been identified as being in the top 1% of ability 25 years earlier at age 13. Significant differences in the creative and career paths of individuals were found, with those showing more ability in math having greater accomplishments in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, while those showing greatest ability on the verbal portion of the test going on to excel in art, history, literature, languages, drama, and related fields.
The key was to administer the SAT at a young age. When students take the test in high school, the most able students all score near the top, and individual differences are harder to see. Using the test with gifted students at a young age creates the potential to help shape that person’s education.
Overall, the creative potential of these participants was extraordinary, with individuals earning 817 patents and publishing 93 books.
With this knowledge, the policy question becomes: How best can we support these individuals, especially during their formative years?
For more information, see:
New Gifted Blog from Teacher Magazine
Blogging about gifted education is growing. Unwrapping the Gifted
, written by Tamara Fisher and published by Teacher Magazine
, is the latest to hit the scene. Each new blog that is created (scroll down in column on left to find a list with links) approaches gifted education from a slightly different perspective, and each is a valuable resource for a different reason. I really encourage you to visit the different blogs often.
Tamara Fisher is a K-12 gifted education specialist in northwestern Montana and president-elect of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education. With Karen Isaacson, she is also coauthor of Intelligent Life in the Classroom: Smart Kids and Their Teachers. In her blog, Fisher discusses news and developments in the gifted education community and offers advice for teachers on working with gifted students.
She presents some interesting analogies about understanding and working with this population of kids, as well as thought-provoking questions. Her aim is to “generate some timely thought, reflection, discussion, and questions.” She does a good job of modeling higher-level thinking questions by posing open-ended questions for teachers to consider.
Be sure and read through reader comments after each post as they offer a variety of perspectives on gifted education and also offer strategies that other teachers have used successfully.
The two most recent posts on Unwrapping the Gifted are about the meaning of the term “gifted” and how gifted kids may be “shut out of class participation because they’re perceived as being ‘already where they need to be.’”