Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Create Rules and Guidelines in Gifted and Talented Classrooms

Students who leave the regular classroom for gifted classroom often discover they are in a distinctly different learning environment.

Creating and maintaining a positive learning environment in the gifted classroom is essential for student success. Gifted classrooms are often a haven for g/t kids; they are able to reveal sides of their personalities in the increased comfort that is borne of being in a homogeneous group. However, the group is only homogeneous to a degree, and soon conflicts abound. It is important to establish rules and visit them frequently, as new students are often identified and placed mid-year.

Because many gifted students stay with the same teacher for several years, it is to the students' benefit if the teacher makes broad rules that can be adjusted as time goes by. Some teachers like to involve students in creating classroom rules, but because gifted education involves frequent additions after the start of school, it seems unfair to create rules without some of the participants. It may be better to have student input on procedures related to rules, and revisit those procedures on a regular basis. For example, if one rule is that students must bring supplies to class, the class may vote on procedures to deal with students that do not bring supplies. Should the students bring extra supplies to loan out to one another? Should the empty-handed student have to return to his or her locker to get supplies?

Having rules established when students walk in, and posting rules on the wall, helps establish boundaries for students. The rules of the gifted classroom can be discussed with parents during placement into the program. To create rules, the teacher should consider the duration of the program and activities in the classroom.

If students are coming to a pull-out classroom once or twice a week, the classroom rules need to be easy to remember. A lot of rules will lead to a lot of overwhelmed students. If they are allowed to use their pencils in their other classes but only pens in the gifted classroom, the teacher should have a supply of pens. It is not easy for children to remember rules of a class they attend infrequently. Classes that meet daily are able to have more rules, but again, any rules that are atypical for the student's general experience should be highlighted on a regular basis.
Activities Impact Classroom Rules

Preserving student safety and teacher sanity should be the primary goal of rules. If students are not safe, they will not learn. If teachers are uncomfortable with the amount of movement and noise in a room, the quality of their teaching may reflect their discomfort. It is best to have a rules that everyone can understand and follow. Rules should be given with situations and procedures to help students understand the how to follow the rule. For example:

Rule: Students will respect their classroom materials.

Situation: If a student is working in a center, he or she will leave the center clean and ready to be used by the next person.

Procedure: When a student is done at a center, look at the checklist and make sure all of the supplies are returned to their original areas.

Gifted classrooms have more flexibility than regular classrooms, but students need rules to take advantage of the opportunities a flexible classroom offers. A supportive classroom has boundaries, and boundaries designed with g/t kids in mind will actually increase the sense of flexibility in the classroom.

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