HSE’s Wolf pioneers high-ability curriculum

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Because of a newIndianalaw dictating that all schools provide high-ability programs for grades K-12, theHamiltonSoutheasternSchool Districtis beginning to discuss how to incorporate an “affective curriculum,” a strategy for developing the social and emotional skills of gifted and talented students, into the current program.

Beth Niedermeyer, assistant superintendent for HSE, will begin to facilitate conversations between teachers and administrators about how to incorporate the affective curriculum this summer when they begin planning the new first- and second-grade high-ability programs.

“All of the research points to the importance of having an affective curriculum imbedded in your high-ability program just to help those students be successful. I think that the state and everyone else is very intent on focusing on what schools and teachers can do to serve all aspects of the students,” Niedermeyer said.

No decisions have been made about the implementation of the program thus far, but an affective curriculum developed by Kelly Wolf, a third-grade REACH teacher at Geist Elementary, has been considered for use as a model, both in HSE schools and at the state level. This curriculum assigns one lesson to each nine weeks from kindergarten through fifth grade to teach high-ability students skills they struggle with, like time management and how to make friends.

“You have a teacher who is teaching you your subjects, but our students need a little bit more of the social and emotional piece, too,” Wolf said. “A lot of high-ability students have trouble making friends because they’re intellectually so much above their peers. Out at recess, you could see a teacher on duty and a student talking to her the whole time because he or she can’t find a friend to play with on the playground.”

Affective curriculums focus on lessons dealing with topics like perfectionism, bullying, stress and leadership. Wolf’s method specifically stresses guided reading and guided viewing as the teaching tools for these topics, where the teacher presents a story or video of a character exhibiting a trait, such as responsibility, and discusses the character’s actions with the class.

Many teachers already use a type of affective curriculum in the classroom, but making these strategies part of the district-wide curriculum will build awareness of the necessity to cater to the social and emotional needs of students in addition to the intellectual aspect.

“(The goal is) helping them negotiate between all these kinds of things that make them who they are, and helping them overcome some of them so they don’t become a stumbling block for their learning,” Niedermeyer said.

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