From the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development

2e Center News

May, 2016

 

About this Column

The 2e Center is located on the campus of Bridges Academy in Studio City, California. In this column, we share what’s happening at our center and report research findings, teaching ideas, and parenting suggestions we have found to be successful in helping 2e kids thrive.
— SB

As the end of the school year is upon us, it behooves us to think about all the progress our children have made over the course of the year. I have the pleasure of meeting with a small group of parents over breakfast once a month to share stories of success and challenges facing their children. For this final meeting of the year, several parents voiced concern about issues not yet resolved. I asked them to remember the concerns they voiced in our first meeting back in September. To jostle their memories, I took out my notes and read them to the group. I could see the stress just melt away as one by one these four parents agreed that those concerns were no longer issues. Indeed, they admitted how their students were growing over time.

Take a moment to reflect upon and celebrate what was right about the year. Remind your children or students of how much and in what ways they have grown over the course of the year. Finally, as parents, make sure to provide talent development opportunities over the summer months to let your children bask in their strengths.

The strengths of 2e learners is the focus of our column in this issue, as we conclude our series on the findings of a research study facilitated by the 2e Center and featured in Tom Ropelewski’s documentary film 2e: Twice Exceptional. The study, which provided helpful insights into the academic, social, and emotional development of young people with twice-exceptionalities, uncovered six areas influential in establishing a strong foundation for success for 2e students. In order to support these unique learners in each of these areas, teachers and parents need to:

  1. Understand asynchrony and its impact on the student.
  2. Provide a psychologically safe learning and home environment.
  3. Allow the 2e student enough time to develop emotionally and academically.
  4. Encourage positive relationships at school and at home.
  5. Provide various opportunities for talent development.
  6. Develop strength-based academic and behavioral strategies to compensate for the 2e student’s areas of weakness.

The teachers at Bridges use strength-based strategies in teaching our twice-exceptional students. We are proud of our instructional approach, one built on a strength-based, talent-focused philosophy. In the following article, Rose R. Blucher, a member of the Executive Board of the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, describes how parents and teachers can put this approach to work with twice-exceptional learners.  

Factor 6: Strength-based Strategies

By Rose R. Blucher, M.Ed.

What Parents Want to Know

Each day after school, my child rushes through the door to add more buildings, landscapes, and people to a 3- by 5-foot Lego city that he has been working on for 6 months in our basement. He spends countless hours creating unique buildings and interactive scenes, yet he is so resistant to focusing on written homework assignments that appear to require less than half an hour to complete. His avoidance and manipulative behaviors are not only impacting his grades, but also affecting our family interactions.

How can we, as parents, and his teachers provide more activities and tasks based on the strengths my child exhibits at home instead of solely addressing his areas of weakness through continuous written assignments?

What Do We Mean by Strength-based Strategies?

Essential to student success is the ability to develop, evaluate, and generalize effective learning and behavioral strategies. Starting with the student’s strengths to develop a strategy — or, as I often refer to it, using the way in which the student’s brain is “wired” — is far more meaningful to the student than having a parent or teacher impose a “must-do” strategy or idea on the learner.

Only after a year or two of working with 2e students did I discover that the student’s own strategies were far more effective and successful than the many strategies I had suggested or the study skills classes required. In fact, while working with Melanie, my first 2e student, more than twenty years ago, I proudly suggested seven or eight different systems for her to use to organize her notebook, all of which failed! Why? Because each suggested strategy was the “Rose Blucher Method” for organization. It was not the way Melanie thought about organizing her tasks and materials. Needless to say, on the ninth try Melanie stumbled upon a way to organize her papers and assignments — by simply using an accordion file container instead of the dreaded three-ring notebook!

How to Determine Student Strengths

Every teacher and parent has many opportunities to observe a child’s strengths, interests, and passions through various activities on the playground, in the classroom, during organized sports, in music or art classes, and during family time and alone time. But often, those moments are forgotten when it’s time to help the struggling learner get through a difficult assignment, project, or challenging emotional time. Instead, the teacher or parent resorts to suggesting the way he or she would approach the task. Therefore, it’s wise to employ a more systematic approach to identifying strengths, one that engages the student in reporting his or her own strengths or learning style. A teacher can keep the information gathered from these student self-reports in a file to use during those times when the student is unable to initiate or complete a task, or when planning short- and long-term lessons.

A variety of learning-style or strength-based inventories are available to purchase or to access on the Internet. Among them are:

  • David Lazear’s self-report scales for elementary, middle, and high school students. These tools are based on Howard Gardner’s eight multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2011). Lazear used these multiple intelligence areas as the basis for both his book 8 Ways of Learning (2000) and the self-report scales.
  • The Birmingham Grid for Learning (Birmingham City Council,  2002-2016), an excellent online inventory with versions for both secondary and elementary students. When students take the test online, it provides them with a pie chart depiction of their multiple intelligences. Additionally, teachers can input the codes for each of their students and obtain a class profile of multiple intelligence strength. Thus, if the class as a whole is primarily spatial, teachers could ensure that instruction includes visual content such as movie clips or works of art to engage the class in learning. The grid, available in text or audio formats and in several languages, is available here: www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks3/ict/multiple_int/questions/choose_lang.cfm
  • The Learning Print (Schader & Zhou, 2004), a process that incorporates assessment tools to help students identify interests, strengths, and learning-style preferences. At the start of each school year at Bridges Academy, students participate inGetting to Know You days during which they complete the assessment and use the results in activities designed to tap their strengths, interests, and talents. This introductory unit at the beginning of each year provides teachers and students with recent information about individual students’ learning profiles. The information gained from these activities aids in developing curriculum and strategies that are strength-based.

Process for Strategy Development

Think back to the beginning of the article and Melanie’s difficulties with a system for organizing a notebook. Melanie’s strengths were visual-spatial, according to Howard Gardner’s paradigm; therefore, she thought more globally and in “chunks,” while also relying on color coding to help her remember where to put things in her accordion folder. Each slot in her folder had a color and a symbol that she associated with each of her subjects. For example, her biology slot was color coded green with a symbol of a plant; so all she had to do was make sure each biology paper went into that particular slot. Her English class slot was red (for danger) with an unhappy face as its symbol. (I think you get the idea!)

How did Melanie discover this successful strategy? She was given the opportunity to work through a strategy-development system that included a strategy log and a process chart (Blucher, 1999). She had to describe her problematic situation, come up with a unique strategy based on her strengths (visual-spatial), monitor the efficacy of the individual strategy, and finally evaluate the effectiveness of her unique idea for organization.

Melanie eventually realized that she could generalize and use the color-coding strategy for other academic tasks, such as writing a three-paragraph essay. First, she dictated all of her ideas using the voice-to-text program Dragon Naturally Speaking to get her thoughts down on paper. Next, she assigned a different colored text to the introductory paragraph, body paragraph, and concluding paragraph. As she reviewed her ideas, she decided which sentences or phrases fit best in each of the three paragraphs, and cut and pasted them into the appropriate spot. Eventually, she had a finished product by simply using a strategy she had learned before based on her learning strength!

Finally, returning to the parent’s question about the young boy who would rather build with Legos than do his written homework assignments, it’s clear that he’s excited about producing scenes in 3-D form. So why not let him build first and then dictate (or write if he chooses) what the characters in the story are doing or saying? The last step would be finalizing the written paragraph, perhaps through peer editing or by using the editing tools of a word processing program.

When 2e students are asked to produce in their area of strength, they begin to excel, their parents are less frustrated, and their teachers have a unique instructional toolkit from which to draw. With the help of strength-based strategies, teachers are better able to develop lessons that meet the needs not only of their 2e students, but of all students. By simply shifting the paradigm from a “deficit model” to a strength-based one, all students can begin to perform at their optimum levels of academic and behavioral achievement! 

Tips for Parents and Teachers

Here are some ideas that parents and teachers can use as they work with their 2e learners to develop strength-based academic and behavioral strategies:

  1. Allow the student to choose the strength inventory that best meets his or her individual needs.
  2. Use a systematic process for developing and tracking strength-based strategies. Track successful strategies by recording them in a journal or on different-colored index cards, using an assigned color for specific academic and behavioral tasks.
  3. Have learners evaluate the efficacy of strength-based strategies and under which circumstances each can be used. For younger children, a thumbs up or thumbs down can be noted next to the strategy. For older children, a 1 to 5 scale can be used with and explanation of why it received that score. Have students analyze how closely each strategy related to their strengths. 
  4. Ask students to think of the silliest or most creative strategy they have ever used to complete a task. Next, have them use a strategy not necessarily in their area of strength. Work with students to compare the two strategies and determine which was the easier and more effective strategy. This process helps students engage in an evaluative system of their own.
  5. Refrain from imposing “your way” of doing a task and, instead, take on the role of a facilitator by asking the child questions such as:
  • What are your strengths?
  • How do you know?
  • What are your passions, and how do you use your strengths when you are working in your area of passion?
  • How might you apply those same skills, techniques, or strengths to a new learning situation? 

The questions are endless!

RB

References

For more than 20 years, Rose R. Blucher, M.Ed., was a specialist for gifted with special learning needs students in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where she coordinated county-wide public and private school support services for 2e students. She has presented at numerous state, national, and international conferences. and is currently on the executive board of directors of The 2e Center for Research and Professional Development in Studio City, California. Blucher is the Director of Blucher Educational Services for Boundless Potential and continues to serve nationally and internationally as an educational consultant and advocate to school systems, schools, and parents. Reach her at roseblucher@gmail.com.  

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