Provisions for the gifted child in the secondary school language arts program
Usiskin, Joyce Shinkin
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The aim of this paper was to study current practices which provide for gifted children in the secondary-school language arts program. In conducting this study, the writer proposed to answer the following questions: 1. What should be done for the gifted child in the secondary-school language arts program? 2. What is being done for the gifted child in the secondary-school language arts program? In order to determine what should be done for the gifted in the secondary-school language arts program, it was necessary to review the history of instruction for the gifted in the United States and to study ways in which competent authorities recommended that gifted children be identified by their schools. Literature dealing with the gifted child indicated that three major provisions were being made for the gifted: acceleration, enrichment, and homogeneous grouping. The next step was then to examine the available experimental evidence and professional opinion to determine the relative value of each of theses provisions for the gifted child in the secondary-school language arts program. A review of the history of instruction for the gifted in the United States indicated that the gifted child was late in being recognized and attended to in our public school systems. Not until 1867 did the St. Louis, Missouri school system make frequent promotions possible for the above-average child. In 1900, this method of "skipping" youngsters was gradually replaced by rapid advancement classes in which the students completed two years' work in one year or three years' work in two years. After World War I, an increased interest in the gifted was evidenced by the steady increase in the number of article published about the gifted child; by the work of Terman and Hollingsworth in studying the gifted child's needs and by the formation of the American Association for Gifted Children. The Major Work Classes began in the Cleveland Public Schools in 1920 initiated a period of enrichment practices for gifted students that has lasted to the present. Educators and teachers agree that early discovery of the gifted child affords the best opportunity to adjust the curriculum to his peculiar needs and interests. The method of identification is not as universally accepted. Terman, Hollingsworth and many other authorities consider an individual intelligence scale, in the hands of a trained psychologist, the best single instrument for identifying the gifted. Other evidence of emotional maturity, social adaptability, and physical fitness would include personal and health data, social history, scores on aptitude tests, personality inventories, results of sociograms, and creative ability as evidenced in diaries, open themes, autobiographies, and reactions to stories and pictures. Three types of acceleration are reported: acceleration by early entrance, acceleration by rapid progress, and acceleration by skipping. Acceleration by "skipping" is not favored by competent authorities. The values of acceleration are time saving, financial savings, and recognition of individual differences. Terman and Oden who studied acceleration results in 1947 concluded that accelerates did better in high-school, more graduated from college and more received college honors. They found no harmful effects from acceleration in the group that they studied. Witty recommends no more than two years of acceleration. Witty's recommendation is borne out by experimental evidence. A study by Keys showed that children with 130 I. Q. or more may be accelerated two years without social or emotional danger. A study at Nebraska showed that acceleration of one year is to the advantage of children with and I. Q. of 115 or more. Johnson studied children with I. Q.'s averaging 127 and found that they were better adjusted after accelerating two to five semesters than those of the same I. Q. wo were retained in the regular class. A report by the American Association of Gifted Children revealed that educationally the gifted child is accelerated in grade placement about 14% of his age; in mastery of school curriculum, he is accelerated about 44% of his age. The ways of providing enrichment are by offering additional courses in areas in which present offerings are too limited; by offering more and more varied extra class activities through which the talented may pursue their interest; by providing facilities such as laboratories, art rooms, music practice rooms, and shops; and by providing additional materials such as books, art supplies, equipment, and instruments. Enrichment may be extensive or intensive. Extensive enrichment refers to the broadening of the student's knowledges and skills. Intensive enrichment consists of probing deeper into the subject matter he is already acquainted with. In the language-arts program, extensive enrichment may be accomplished by a wide program of reading and by vicarious experiences. Intensive enrichment may be accomplished by special interest groups working on specific aspects of literature or of written or oral communication. The experimental evidence as to the value of homogeneous grouping has not supported the theoretical advantages of such a system. Abernothy found differences in favor of homogeneous grouping were not statistically significant. Current practices in providing for gifted pupils were investigated by Jewett and Hull, by Frank T. Wilson, by Witty and Coomer on a National scale. Jewett and Hull studied the provisions for rapid learners among superior teachers of English at 850 schools. They found that the English teacher is less liberal in language ad grammar than in reading and literature. Extensive reading programs were encouraged at the same time that traditional rules for grammar were emphasized. Wilson concluded as a result of his study in 1948 that most educators didn't apply the latest information on the nature and needs of gifted children. He suggested wider dissemination of curricular materials and procedures, primarily for enrichment. The study by Witty and Coomer in 1949, further emphasized the meagerness of the provisions for the gifted on a nationwide basis. State studies of practices for the gifted were conducted in Ohio and Wisconsin. Of Ohio's 258 school districts, only 9% offered any provisions at all for the gifted pupil. The Wisconsin study showed that enrichment was the most widely accepted method in that state. New York City and Chicago conducted citywide studies of provisions for for the gifted pupil. In New York City, there are four major programs for the gifted: specialized high-schools, honor schools with comprehensive high-school, special classes within various subject areas, and elective curricular offerings. In Chicago, honor classes, special classes, field work and frequent conferences are held for the gifted students. Only two colleges in the United States offer complete sequences during the regular academic year for the preparation of teachers of the gifted: Hunter College of the City of New York and Pennsylvania State University. Only one state, Pennsylvania, has special certification for teachers of the gifted. No state make legal specification to insure appropriate education for children unusually gifted or talented. Wisconsin, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have established some degree of legislative authority for organizing special classes for the mentally gifted. As the final step in the study, the writer set up criteria based on professional opinion and experimental evidence, as to the most effective means of dealing with the gifted youngster in the secondary-school language arts program. Specific examples of classroom practices which met this criteria were described. The study showed that there is a wide difference between the methods for the gifted recommended by competent authorities and the methods practiced in the English classrooms today. On a nationwide scale, the very meagerness of these provisions offered indicated the poverty of our schoolroom resources for the gifted pupil.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University