Soapbox 3: Smart Kids Get Ignored

June 9, 2015

Smart Kids Get Ignored

With Common Core coming out in the US, a lot of attention is brought to the curriculum being taught in our schools. However, I believe a different reason is keeping our students back and harming their potential to learn. Instead of bringing everyone to the highest level of learning, teachers have to teach to the lowest kid in the class. The smart kids get ignored because they are doing ‘fine’ already.

I was one of those smart kids in the class. Instead of being able to move forward in curriculum, the teachers would force me to teach the material to the kids who did not understand it. This does not sound so bad, but in elementary school, this was all I ever did. This also keeps the smart kids bored. In 4th grade, my teacher had a box of word searches that kids could do if they finished their work early. Needless to say, that year I got to be a word searches wizard.

Instead of telling our kids to wait for learning, we should be trying to keep up with where the kids are at. In this day and age, with all of the technology that we have, why is this so difficult?

 Solution: Part 1

One solution is gamification in teaching. Many games out there already teach things, such as math (Math Blaster), typing (Typer Shark, Mario Teaches Typing), logic skills (Logical Journey of the Zoombinis), sciences (Sim Ant), English (Word Muncher and Super Muncher), basics of running a city (SimCity) or running a business (Game Dev Tycoon, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Sim Tower, Zoo Tycoon), multitasking skills (Diner Dash, Cake Mania, Supermarket Mania), geography (The original version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Where in the US is Carmen Sandiego) or even general learning games (Jumpstart).

Why don’t we implement this more? The kids would have more fun learning the topics AND they would get tutorials and hints that help them when they are struggling. Many of the educational games even have a difficulty that adjusts itself to the child to keep the game just challenging enough to keep going.

Even games we play outside of the digital realm help us. Jump rope, hulahoop, catch, etc. all help people be able to have better overall coordination and feel how their body works. When I was in elementary school, we had a map of the US painted on our blacktop. We used it to play ‘state tag’. To play this game, you had to know which states were which or we would get tagged out. We could use a chain of kids to try to get to the other states. This built teamwork and communication skills, skills that are often lost in this day of kids being glued to a screen.

Why can’t we have a game that tests the kids by putting them through scenarios to think through rather than having it all be rote memorization and filling out boring sheets? This would very likely help children who choke with test anxiety. Employers do not give you a test on your work, they see the results, so why should our kids have to do tests? Isn’t school there to help them succeed when they are on their own and in the workforce?

Solution: Part 2

The second part of the solution is splitting our classrooms. Instead of having one teacher teaching all 1st grade topics, our children should be able to go into the classroom that challenges them. If one student excels at science, there is no reason they should be limited to the age group they are in. If they are ready to learn, regardless of age, they should be able to.

Along with students being able to be taught at the level they are ready for, the class sizes should change. A relative bell curve should represent the class sizes. The kids who are really struggling, should get extra help and have a smaller class size and the kids at the top who are ready for extra challenges the others aren’t ready for should have a small class size and in the middle should be average class sizes.  How large small and average are is a discussion for a different topic. By allowing kids to be in the same classroom with those at the same level, they smart kids will get bored less often and the kids who don’t understand the material will not get left behind as teachers have to move on to new material.


With both solutions implemented, we can help kids learn how to learn on their own and be able to have a more accelerated learning experience, benefiting all students.


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