Trail Mix Teaching
Have you ever put out a bowl of trail mix only to find that all the good stuff has been picked through? That’s sort of what we do when we select teaching methodologies. We want the very best for our students, so we pick through the best concepts from a wide variety of proven options to suit the needs of our students, and make our own version of trail mix without the stale peanuts.
We do far more than put facts in our student’s heads. We go to great lengths to truly know and understand each of our students and what their social, emotional, and academic needs are. We do what’s best for each student according to their needs.
Here are a few of the methods we pick and choose from:
Brain Based Learning
It makes sense to us to base how we teach on what the latest scientific research says about how children learn and develop at different ages.
Reggio Emilia Approach
This approach to teaching puts the natural development of children and relationships with other people at the center of its philosophy. Although this approach was developed for early childhood, we have adopted most of the techniques to all grade levels; Involving students in the learning process, natural and ascetically pleasing learning environments, working in a collaborative community, and inspiring curiosity.
Here is an example of a school that uses Reggio Emilia:
We have a master plan of the core skills each student should know in a particular subject spanning all grade levels so that our students will graduate with a complete and well rounded education. We also know what students at various grade levels should know coming from another school. Transitioning to a gifted school can be like stepping on to a moving escalator. We use assessment to find where the gaps are so that a new student doesn’t miss any important concepts. Of course we go well above and beyond the core material, but a solid foundation is a critical piece of any academic model.
Project Based Learning (PBL)
Most of the jobs you’ve had as an adult probably haven’t required you to do 50 homework problems or fill in bubbles on a standardized test. Why should school be that way? Giving students open ended projects rather than problems out of a textbook contributes to authentic learning. Students draw on a wide variety of skills and apply them to the problem at hand. This is great for gifted students who enjoy exploring more than one possible solution to a problem. It’s also a great way for a teacher to truly assess what a student not only knows, but understands.
Although the PBL methodology has many strengths, it is most effective when used in conjunction with traditional teaching methods.
Gifted students love games, and educators have studied what makes games so engaging. Our teachers use gaming techniques such as friendly competition, achievement, badges, and collaboration to engage and motivate our students.
One of the oldest teaching methods still encourages students to think critically and deeply. We are all learners together.
Inquiry Based Learning
This method shifts learning from teacher-centered to student-centered. Students are given questions, problems, and scenarios, then they develop their own understanding through the problem solving process.