We need to include mention of a very special group of youngsters here, who are both gifted and learning disabled (GLD). These are students who have superior abilities in developing concepts and working with abstract ideas, but have difficulty expressing them in writing because of a lack of organization and attention to detail. They may have difficulty extracting information from print material and find it hard to remember isolated information and facts. GLD children enjoy academic work when it is personally meaningful and when they understand how it fits into their larger concept of the world. An excellent resource on identifying and working with GLD children is found in Baum, Owen and Dixon (1991), To Be Gifted and Learning Disabled. According to the authors, "Education for these children must focus on abstract ideas and generalization. Teachers must provide organizational strategies to help these students achieve and allow alternatives to writing as a means of communication (p. 19)."
In working with GLD students, it is important to provide successful experiences that meet their need for relevance. Five guidelines to help teachers develop activities for these students have been adapted from Baum, et al. (1991):
- Plan activities that are active, interactive and engaging. When GLD youngsters are asked to do, act, experiment or discuss, not only are they more likely to attend, but their ability to acquire and remember information will be enhanced.
- Provide challenges that are open-ended and require creative, unusual thinking and problem-solving. GLD students will excel at such activities, which in turn develop their self-esteem.
- Offer equivalent assignment options so that students are able to play to their strengths and use their preferred learning styles. Activities involving drama, film making and spatial design will allow GLD students to use their gifts in demonstrating acquired knowledge.
- In their areas of interest, provide time for students to use the methods and materials of the practicing professional. This dignifies their gifts and interests and encourages the "learning by doing" experiences that are so valued by GLD students.
- As much as possible, allow GLD students to pursue or investigate real world problems and issues. This will serve their need for meaning and relevance in making real contributions.
As mentioned earlier, an excellent guidebook for helping students conduct original research is Looking For Data In All The Right Places, by Starko and Schack, 1992. It presents social science research methodology from identification of the research question to the different types of research students may choose from. The guidebook also includes information on gathering data, sample selection and the "how to's" of qualitative and quantitative analysis. In short, it provides professional methodology at a level that is respectful of student intellect.
The following chard is taken from Baum et al. (1991) and reproduced with permission:
Acquiring information with limited reading skills
• Use nonprint experiences
• Use picture books
• Use teaching materials that have a visual component
Remembering details and assignments
• Use advanced organizers, visual models and recipes
• Use worksheets with a response format
• Teach strategies for organizing webbing, storyboards, Venn Diagrams and matrices
Demonstrating poor skills in handwriting and spelling
• Use mnemonic devices
• Use visual imagery
• Establish a Buddy System
• Provide opportunities for cooperative learning where each member contributes his strength
• Use computer word processing programs
Readers will notice again that there are many similarities in the suggestions for working with the highly capable, with LD students, and with the GLD and we take this opportunity to reiterate our position that good teaching is good teaching and provides good diagnosis!