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Category Archives: Teaching Notes

Notes from teaching in a Montessori Environment.

I think I know some underachieving verbally gifted children…

Just came across this helpful article to considering motivation for some children in classroom management/design, shared by the Ultimate Montessori Parents Guide:
https://www.verywell.com/underachievement-of-verbally-gifted-children-1448965
Signs of verbally gifted children: higher competency in language than peers, easily acquire language, good ear for sound of languages, good at manipulating symbols (letters), can often be heard ‘playing’ with language. – making jokes with language, experimenting with sound (making nonsense sounds), getting rhymes and poetry quickly…etc.
    Aside from this, very young children also have a sensitive period (Montessori) for language that makes it easier for them to absorb languages.
Takeaways from that article:
   1. Verbally gifted children tend to be holistic learners – they want to see the big picture (why should I learn this?) before getting details esp. cosmic education>
2. Because of need for holistic learning and challenge, tend to see rote memorization as pointless. This will present as saying something is ‘hard’ when they mean that something is ‘boring and uncomfortable to learn – tedious’ (not necessarily beyond the child’s capability, as we adults would define the word ‘hard’).
3. For the sake of challenge (to stay interested), these children will often choose difficult tasks over easy ones at the risk of getting a lower grade. Thus presenting with underachievement.
4. Tend to want to be able to be in charge of their own learning (intrinsically motivated)
     Note: being verbally gifted is only one aspect of a child so one verbally gifted child will appear different in temperament and other capabilities than another child. Something I have noticed about gifted children is that their learning often appears asymmetrical – this includes not being very good at certain things, can sometimes present with behavioral issues (due to asymmetry), and does not necessarily follow learning scope & sequence because some things are ahead of others (such as Montessori found that children can often write before they can read. A gifted child may be ready to learn reading before they are able to write, due to under-developed fine motor that is related to their focused interest on non-fine motor related areas.)
     For example, today I noticed a child in the class I am teaching practice at who, for an almost 4 year old, is showing pretty good mastery of the moveable mandarin alphabet (bopomo), compared to peers. I do not think he has enough control for writing yet but he is definitely good at blending. This is one of the children (most of them tend to be boys!) who at various other times can present with behavioral challenges. Could this because he is undershooting in certain areas? Something to find out!
     Another child I know who I realize is verbally gifted (Has high attention span for being read to compared to peers. Can memorize picture book dialogue upon first being read to. Will make puns with words. Easily find and fills in gaps when reading things that rhyme, likes to find new ways of doing things) – keeps complaining and avoiding language work, will dither when working with language. I believe this is because the way these particular language works are presented with limited scope, and the children have been constrained not to use them in a spontaneous way. However, to teachers to follow clear scope & sequence, this child can seem to have ‘not yet mastered’ more basic concepts, and so can be held back because teachers want them to finish one step successfully before moving on to another. While the child is one who seeks novelty and challenge.
     So I think for this child : 1.material for earlier steps needs to be regularly refreshed so child will be interested in working with ‘old’ concepts in new ways. 2. Occasional bridge work (forays) into more advanced work should be used, and allowed, but not to the point that child is introduced too early and frustrated. 3. Sometimes it is okay to experiment so child can see value of earlier work as foundation. 4. Freedom and opportunity for initiative should be allowed. The need for creativity can be satisfied with other materials/activities if purposeful use needs to be maintained for certain materials.

     It is possible for Montessori schools and teachers to accommodate for the needs of gifted children because the inherent philosophical learning environment design allows individualization. However, it is also possible for Montessori teachers to miss these positive aspects and potentialities of a child’s learning. So I really love all these new studies coming to the fore that explore differentiated learning needs!