Gifted students’ brief challenge

DSCN1177aHoly Family Catholic Primary Menai students were challenged to write a story about themselves in six words and illustrate it as part of a workshop series for gifted students.

The workshop drew on the visual arts and literacy skills of Years 3 and 4 students from the school as well as St Luke’s Catholic Primary Revesby and St Therese Catholic Primary Padstow, who joined their Holy Family peers for the activity on June 16.

The students looked at inspirational quotes from people including light-bulb inventor Thomas Edison and actress Audrey Hepburn before crafting their own stories or quotes about their lives and hobbies. They then painted the story and a design to match on a tile.

The ‘cluster workshop’ was one of between 12 and 20 held each year for students of the three schools who are identified as gifted in areas such as Mathematics, Science, Literacy, Religion, Art, Music and Technology. They are run as part of the Newman Project, an initiative to support the learning of gifted and talented students enrolled in Sydney Catholic schools.

It feels really good to be more supported in my area … so that I can grow and develop.

– Lily Samuel

Students’ finished six word story tiles.

Newman Facilitators at Holy Family Primary Nicole Shepherd and Vanessa Sadler said past workshops have included astronomy, philosophy and activities where students have created their own superhero characters and costumes, written narratives within the mystery genre, and created digital projects based on a scripture passage.

Ms Sadler said teachers used different sources of data to choose students to enter the Newman program, with older students given leadership opportunities through the workshops, too.

“We did a Maths workshop earlier in the year and there were a lot of puzzles and we had to rotate so we asked some of the older children in Years 5 and 6 to help,” she said.

“Some of our gifted children have anxiety and low confidence even though they are very clever. It’s a way of building up their confidence by them being asked to come and lead these groups and they loved it. We couldn’t get them back to class at the end.

“We’re very conscious of not putting them [all Newman students] in the one class. They need to be leading the others and bringing those classroom conversations to that deeper level.”

Ms Shepherd said the ‘Six Words’ workshop taught students to be concise.

“It’s about that conservation of words and how to say what they want to say in as few words as possible,” she said.

“Students from our Newman cohort may not always go to every workshop. We try and provide opportunities in the areas that they are most passionate about or where their interests and talents lay. They might really shine in a technology workshop or public speaking. Some kids are very articulate.

“I think teachers also really enjoy running the workshops because they get to see at what level the kids can work and they also get to plan activities that are higher order, so it’s good professional learning for them.”

Year 4 student Lily Samuel, 10, wrote about rescuing animals after she adopted her pet Maltese Shih Tzu Terrier Lucky two years ago. She said the workshop had been fun and interesting.

“I really like it because we can decide how we want to do things and do them in our own way,” she said.

“They talk to us more directly whereas in the classroom they talk to the whole class. I feel important because I’m good in one area, and it feels really good to be more supported in my area, which is art, so that I can grow and develop.”

“It’s really hard to write a story in six words because there are so many things you could write about and so many things you could draw. I’ve done is this thing about animals and rescuing them, because I adopted my dog and I’ve been really happy since I‘ve had him.”

Year 3 student Ethan Garner, 9, has participated in workshops including ones on electricity, mathematics. He said one where he and a friend used the iStopMotion app to create a short film about a person being abducted by aliens, then rescued, had been his favourite workshop.

“We created a scene from the spelling workshop but we continued it with an app where you could take photos,” he said.

“If there was a Lego person you could change it and take another photo to make it look like it was moving.”

Ethan’s six word story was ‘Everyone’s life is like a video game’.

“I think it’s pretty hard to write a six word story, or sometimes easy if you just need to write a narrative,” he said.

“Video games relate to life because there’s always a hero and you can sometimes be the hero.”

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