As with any school subject, it can be difficult to keep kids engaged in science and STEM as it is traditionally taught. As we become familiar with how students are impacted by exceptionalities and learning styles, we understand how modifications in the classrooms are needed to increase student interest and success in learning. All children-- not just gifted or exceptional students-- benefit from student-driven modifications in the classroom. Examples of how to accommodate the various needs of students can vary, but many techniques produce promising results in increasing student motivation and success. With individualized accommodations, students have the resources they need to grow intellectually, creatively, and personally.
When we refer to 'accommodations', we are mostly referring to a change in "content, methodology, or delivery of instruction." Making changes such as incorporating a student's interests into the lesson prove to be a lot of help. Other accommodations can be as simple as changing an individual student's or a classroom's learning environment. Rearranging classroom seating and putting up encouraging posters around the classroom are all quick and simple ways to boost a learning environment. It can also involve simple changes to teaching instruction, including utilizing computer programs to capture students' attention, or increasing the amount of visual aides used in each lesson. A combination of environmental and teaching accommodations is best. Educators should use their personal judgement based on knowledge of their students to decide which accommodations are best for their classroom while meeting any required 504 or similar educational plans.
In Episode 18 of our "Let's Go to Space: BlueSky Learning podcast, meeting the needs of the gifted students is addressed with Dr. Denise Spirou. Spirou is the founding Head of School at The Greene School, an independent school for high-performing students in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is also a leader in training teachers to work with gifted populations (you can check out The Greene School here). Below are a few of the tips for parents, teachers, and students gifted/twice-exceptional students:
1. Taking a Breath
While some accommodations can take time and skill to implement within the classroom, some are quick and easy, and can have an incredible impact on a child's learning abilities and mental wellbeing. Dr. Spirou reminds us that stopping instruction for a few minutes to relax and take some deep breaths is a great way to help students that may be feeling overwhelmed or burned out from a hard day's work. Lengthy time away from schoolwork is not needed, and students can jump right back into their work after taking a moment to breathe throughout the day.
2. Incorporating a Child's Interests into Schoolwork/Projects
A great way to not only hold a student's attention but also to increase their passion for a subject is to incorporate their interests into their lessons and assignments. A teacher has the privilege of spending a year (or sometimes multiple years) to get to know each student both on a personal and academic level. A teacher can use this background knowledge to their advantage in the classroom. This can be as simple as including graphics from a well-known kids cartoon, or encouraging each student to write an essay involving their favorite sports team. This knowledge of student interest is particularly important in choosing larger academic undertakings such as the Science Fair as a student who deeply cares about their research is likely to both enjoy the process and do well in the competition.
3. Schedules Are Not Strict
Something that all teachers are familiar with (and dread!!) are lesson plans. After the initial stress of creating the lesson plans comes the stress of possibly falling behind schedule, and what that means for the class as the year progresses. While it is easier said than done to simply let go of this stress, it is important to remember that every child will learn at a different pace, and some concepts will be easier than others. Spirou reminds teachers if you don't get through all of your lesson for the day, it is okay! While students learn at their own pace, teachers teach at their own pace, too,. Teachers impart not only academic content daily, but they also instill lifelong lessons that go beyond the classroom walls. The most successful classroom is the one where teacher and students work hard to create an immersive, enriching learning environment together.
Whether you are a parent, teacher, or a student yourself, take these tips into consideration when involving yourself in the learning environment. While these tips are for any and all school subjects, The Aerospace and Innovation Academy strives to incorporate these ideas into our BLUE-SKY Learning philosophy . We want kids to be just as passionate about science and STEM as we are passionate about teaching it, and we are always open to more innovative ways to help students stand out through unique and distinctive opportunities. Please check out our website at aerospacehigh.org and subscribe to our podcast on Apple, Amazon, and Spotify!