Planning, deciding, and preparing to support giftedness
- Talk about noticing giftedness
- Planning for learning spaces, resources, and teaching strategies
- Engaging in genuine conversations about learning with whānau
Living our philosophy, beliefs, and values
When it comes to supporting giftedness, Hilary Hirst, the Head Teacher at Dannevirke Central Kindergarten, gets excited about curriculum design.
Recently the team of six kaiako reviewed their philosophy to make sure that it includes all children, is accessible, and is easily understood. This means balancing the needs of the group with the interests of individual children, especially those with gifts.
After extensive consultation with whānau, four beliefs and values were agreed to guide teaching practices:
- Whanaungatanga – relationships through shared experiences and working together provides a sense of belonging
- Manaakitanga – accepting and celebrating each child's uniqueness, valuing their whānau, culture, and knowledge
- Akoranga – we value learning from each other, building relationships, and partnerships for learning
- Taiao – we have a nurturing and stimulating environment offering challenges to support children's curiosity and learning
These values guide kaiako discussions about curriculum and learning, and are integrated into their planning to support giftedness.
Conversations about ‘noticing’
For several years now, the kaiako at Dannevirke Central Kindergarten have made planning for children’s learning part of their everyday conversations with whānau.
The team work collaboratively to understand how they can support children’s interests. They use their collective observations about a child, or a group of children, to set learning goals, based on the learning outcomes in Te Whāriki. These are always developed with whānau input.
These conversations, which are either noted down or remembered, are one of the reference points for planning a responsive environment. Kaiako also bring observations, photos, artefacts, and anecdotes to their planning hui.
Learning spaces to support giftedness
Hilary says, "At one of our hui, we realised we had all brought stories about this child’s creativity and imagination. It was the way he thinks that blew us away. It is way beyond what we would expect for a child his age.”
It was as a result of the kōrerorero (discussions) at planning meetings that the kaiako felt that this particular child was exceptional.
He often arrived with a plan about what he wanted to create, and then he would spend the whole session doing just that. Kaiako wanted to support him. The team realised they needed to protect his space.
Kaiako observed he liked to work on the floor. They created a safe working area for him, alongside the literacy table.
They also noticed that he would spend hours working on a particular project so it was important there was no foot traffic to disturb him.
Image: The communal space for all children
Image: The dedicated space for the child
Resources to support giftedness
It wasn’t just the physical space that the kaiako took into consideration; they also noticed what he was interested in and made sure he had the resources on hand to make his projects happen.
Hilary says, “When he first started, he was very shy about asking for specific things like a certain type of paper. We tried to predict as much as possible what would support his learning but now, he will come in and tell us what he wants.”
Kaiako also support this child’s giftedness through their research, looking for information and resources. For example, kaiako noticed this child’s interest in making things with paper. A kaiako went online to learn more about origami to show him. That led to his desire to craft a blanket out of paper. The project took the whole morning.
Teaching strategies to support giftedness
Initially, for this very creative child, kaiako worked hard to ensure they understood his intentions. Once learning outcomes have been identified, the team focuses on their teaching strategies. They identified a wide range of strategies like modelling, asking clarifying questions, and scaffolding.
By intentionally trying out strategies, kaiako honed their practices and learnt what worked best to support the child’s learning.
The team's approach for planning for this child is built around the beliefs and values. These are shared with whānau. The team welcome their input.
Hilary says, "It has made us think about the environment – inside and outside; resources and intentional teaching strategies. So far it's working really well when it comes to supporting the gifts this child brings with him.”
Genuine conversations about teaching and learning with whānau
Hilary says, "His ability to focus and concentrate is amazing. When we spoke about these traits to his whānau, we learnt that his grandfather was very creative and focused.”
Being able to share what they notice about this child with whānau means these kaiako have a genuine platform for talking about learning.
Discussing their observations of this child with whānau brought depth and breadth to their planning. They used the Responsibilities for kaiako section of Te Whāriki, as well as the Evidence of learning examples. These added robustness to the discussions.
Kaiako are constantly evaluating their practices in relation to children’s learning. They have found they are able to nurture giftedness using familiar curriculum design processes.
Questions to think about
- How do you include whānau in your curriculum design processes?
- How do you use the environment to create spaces to nurture specific gifts for children?
Bevan-Brown, J.M. (2009). Identifying and providing for gifted and talented Māori students. APEX, 15(4), 6-20. Retrieved from: https://gifted.tki.org.nz/define-and-identify/cultural-considerations/
Mahaki, P., & Mahaki, C. (2007) “Mana Tū, Mana Ora: Identifying Characteristics of Māori Giftedness”. Retrieved from https://gifted.tki.org.nz/define-and-identify/cultural-considerations/
Ministry of Education, (2009). Te Whatu Pōkeka. Kaupapa Māori assessment for learning. Early childhood exemplars. Wellington, NZ. Learning Media
Ministy of Education, (2019). Learning support action plan. Ministry of Education. Retrieved from www.education.govt.nz/our-work/changes-in-education/strengthening-learning-support