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Utilizing News in Gifted Students’ Independent Summer Studies

Posted by Categories: Gifted Students

gifted youth use news in summer enrichment independent studySummer is a fantastic time of year for gifted and talented students to engage in independent study, meaning they have the opportunity to learn in-depth about something that interests them. Students learning on their own can move at their desired pace, create questions that intrigue them, go off in directions of interest to them, and do all of this at any time of day. Sometimes students with eager minds want to learn about new things, but have nothing in mind or don’t know what they’d like to learn about. Teachers often have this complaint as well—”I’ve offered to have students do an independent study but they don’t know what they want to study.”

Ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes, it’s just exposure to new ideas that is needed to tweak someone’s interest in a topic. Teachers and parents can assist with this exposure by building on interests that students already have (what do you think it is about computer games that you like? Is it the strategy, the technology, the fantasy, etc.?), and then direct them to the next step (how are imaginary video games like fantasy fiction novels, drama, mythology, etc.?). We can provide students with lists of topics they might not know about as a starting point (astronomy, nanotechnology, marine biology, future studies, etc.) and see what strikes their interest.

My favorite place to look for ideas to study is in the news. In a quick skimming of today’s news online, I saw topics related to economics and bankruptcy, DNA analysis, new directions in Cuba, genetic engineering, 700,000 year old fossils, and blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a short list from a quick perusal—suffice it to say what’s happening in the world today covers a huge variety of topics, making it likely that there’s something out there that most of us would like to know more about. Once students have found a story that interests them, they can proceed to create questions that they have about that topic, and a study is born!

Students, once you hit on that intriguing topic, be sure to pose your main idea in question form to help direct you in your research as you strive to answer that question. Then write 3-6 mini-questions that help you answer your big question, to keep you on track.

When you research your questions, use multiple, original sources and make sure you have a good system for collecting, analyzing, and summarizing information. After doing your research, create a product that addresses the big question for you, reflects the kind of product a professional in that field would produce, and that uses your newly gained knowledge in ways that reflect your creativity and strengths.

After you self-critique and make improvements in your product, choose an audience to give you additional feedback. Make sure your audience is knowledgeable about the topic, if you can. After receiving additional feedback and making final improvements, reflect on your learnings, decide if you have further interests in this or related areas, and discern what questions you still have at this point.

So, this summer, check the news for ideas for independent study issues and topics, and ask others what they are currently learning about. Share with us. We’d love to know what fascinates you!

All the best,

Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
CEO, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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