Talent Development Program
Program Director: Beverly Catlin, Coordinator of Instruction
The Talent Development (TD) program offers common experiences for kindergarten and first grade students in each elementary school twice a week. TD teachers design and implement lessons that elicit high-level thinking responses, address state Standards of Learning, and incorporate varied learning styles. They work collaboratively with classroom teachers and support them in the early recognition and nurturing of strong academic potential in young learners. They help prepare children for the demands of challenging subject matter and rigorous courses.
The program has three components: whole-group lessons, small-group sessions, and one-on-one mentoring. Whole-class lessons are literature based and focus on developing students’ critical and creative thinking skills. In small-group sessions, teachers build background knowledge and address the specific academic needs of targeted students. Mentoring sessions allow students to work independently on research projects and learning packets.
Another goal of the program is to facilitate communication between and among teachers as we strive to meet individual student needs. The Talent Development teacher collaborates weekly with each kindergarten and first grade team. They discuss:
- Upcoming lessons and how they connect to the curriculum
- Possible enrichment experiences as extensions of the activities
- Grade-level and individual classroom needs, and
- The talents and academic challenges for individual students.
Capturing Student Thinking and Engagement
During whole-group lessons, classroom teachers observe their students. They focus on recording behaviors based on three specific thinking skills. Teachers take notes on labels that go into a portfolio for each student. These notes become a running record for the child and can be shared with parents and future teachers. See our a list of the thinking skills that are emphasized:
See a list of Thinking Skills in the 21st Century. (pdf)
Following are ideas for incorporating critical thinking skills in your child’s everyday life.
At the Grocery Store:
- "A can of soup is $0.79. I have $5.00. How many containers can I buy? How much will I have left over? If I wanted to buy 6 cans, how much more money would I need?"
- "I have 45 cents in my pocket. What coins might I have? Can you think of another way to make 45 cents?"
- "We are at mile-marker 13. We need to turn at mile-marker 67. How many more miles until we turn? How do you know?"
- "I have 1/4 tank of gas left. I can drive for 50 miles on 1/4 tank of gas. How many miles can I drive on a full tank? How do you know?"
- "Hmmm, I have to put 1 cup of flour into this recipe, but I can't find my 1 cup measuring cup. How can I use my other measuring cups to do this? Can you think of another way?"
- Look at the illustrations in the story. What do you predict the story line will be about? “I think … is going to happen because…?”
Games that encourage critical thinking include:
- 24 Game - This game is played to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division (depending on which one you buy). There are different levels and a self-check.
- Blokus - This game encourages creative thinking as players try to fit all of their pieces onto the board. It is simple to understand, but the game's complexity is revealed shortly after everyone begins to play.
- Connect Four - This is a game of vertical strategy where each player tries to build a row of four playing pieces in the frame – horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – while trying to prevent his or her opponent from doing the same.
- Magic Labyrinth Board Game – This is a game of problem solving & memorization. First build a maze by placing blocking walls within the game box. Then cover the maze and discover ways to navigate your magnetized piece across the board.
- Mirror Mansion – Using mirrors, explore every nook and cranny to find the treasures hidden in Mirror Mansion! Learn about angles and the science of reflection in this game.
- Pixels – This is an abstract strategy game, which has two sliders that can be moved reminiscent of an X and Y graph. The first player with three in a row wins!
- Qwirkle – It is as simple as matching colors and shapes, but the game also requires tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy.
- Royal Rescue – This game is designed to develop spatial reasoning abilities and stretch a player's logical thinking skills. It has simple puzzles for beginning builders and moves to complex puzzles that challenge skilled architects.
- Set - This game involves visual perception. Students create “sets” by finding 3 cards that include a feature that is the same on all the cards or different on all the cards. There are four features that they are examining. The game has two levels of difficulty.
- Shape-by-Shape - These are pattern puzzles. Students try to manipulate shapes in the same space to make different pictures. The game has two levels of difficulty.
- Shut The Box - This is a game to help students practice addition to 12, but it also involves strategy. Students have to think about the different possible number combinations that they could use to “shut the box”.