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This blog explores, from multiple perspectives, gifted education in general and The Avery Coonley School experience in particular. Welcome to the conversation!

 

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Understanding the Whole Child

Posted By Barbara Cosentino, Friday, March 10, 2017

Kindergarten teachers Kristen Mitchell and Angel Van Howe and parents Archana Chawla and Barnali Khuntia recently sat down to discuss the ACS Kindergarten program. In this excerpt from that conversation, they discuss how Avery Coonley supports the needs of the whole child.

Kristen: Obviously, this is a school for gifted children and academics are very important. However, there is so much more than just the academic piece. One of our core principles is that we need to honor the way children learn, and not all children learn the same way. We work really hard to understand, as quickly as we can, how each child best learns and then apply that and give different options for learning.

Angel: There are different modalities of learning. We have our kinesthetic learners, our visual learners, our auditory learners. Through our observations and activities, we gather data and incorporate that into our instruction.

Barnali: It’s hard because when you think “gifted,” the tendency is to only think about academic ability. But there is so much more involved with being gifted than that, and a lot of it is challenging.

Kristen: Yes. For example, developing gross motor skills has always been a really integral part of what we do in Kindergarten because there is such an asynchronicity between gifted kids’ mental and physical abilities. We have several programs that we use, and we work in conjunction with the P.E. teachers, in order to take them through a series of skills that we want them to master by the end of the school year. Children need to learn to do certain things with their bodies before they can excel academically. One basic example – children need to be able to cross the midline of their bodies in order to be successful in reading. When you read, you start at the left and then you go to the right and then you have to cross back over, so you’re constantly going left to right and then crossing back over. You have to cross the midline of your brain to do that, so children first have to be able to physically cross the midline of their body before they can start reading. Likewise, in math you have to develop what is called an “inner voice” before you can be good at any sort of math problem. That’s why we have a kazoo band in Kindergarten – to strengthen their vestibular system. We will play a simple pattern, and they have to hold on to it in the minds and then play it back on the kazoo. That helps to develop that inner voice, which in turn is absolutely imperative for their future successes in math. We explain to parents that these are important skills in order for the students to be the best that they can be in the academic sense.

Barnali: You do a great job of communicating that to parents, that it’s not just about academics. I think people might come in the door thinking that’s all it is. I remember when we first started, I felt a lot of pressure to have my daughter in after-school activities every day because that seems to be what everyone does now. And you told me, it’s okay if she just goes home and plays and makes dinner with you. I think that’s something you might not hear in other places because there is so much pressure to achieve and get ahead.

Archana: Parents at first might think that my kid is going to learn every last math problem and will be doing algebra by the end of Kindergarten. Because conceptually they’re not that far off in some ways. But the longer that you’re at this school, the more you see the bigger picture in terms of understanding the whole child, and that support starts here and it carries through. You don’t necessarily see it right away, but I feel like for any parent who’s been here for a while, you definitely see it over time.

Angel: We get to know your children not as students but as people. I think that’s something that’s not always present in other schools. I look at each and every one of my students as little people and get to know them as a whole person. I sit down and talk with them and ask them questions. We’re not just here to teach them their academics. We’re here to create relationships.

Tags:  ACS  gifted education  whole child 

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