May 292013

What would it be like if students got to work for 1 hour a week on something they were talented at?

What would that be like, if they were in a small groups of like minded students?

What could you achieve in an hour a week, if you were able to focus on teaching students that all had similar talents?

How much fun would it be to both teach those classes, and be a student in them?

At our school, we suspected that all those questions would have positive answers, and so set about creating what we called our TALEX (talent extended) program for our grade 5 students. 

The program ran for two 6 week blocks on Friday afternoons, from 2.00 till 3.15. By pestering every parent and teacher we could to be involved, we managed to secure around 12 TALEX instructors, which gave us class sizes ranging from 6 to 15 students.

The placement of students into a Talex group was a multi-pronged affair utilizing the following;

  • Aptitude tests
  • Teacher assessments
  • Teacher observations (both homeroom and specialists)
  • Student applications
  • Student auditions

The final say on which Talex a student was placed in was the homeroom teachers responsibility. The point of Talex was not “Oh, I always thought it would be fun to try that”, but rather identifying student strengths, and placing them accordingly.

Athletics were not offered as we felt there were already enough options in the community and school for those students who were talented athletes.

The program has been very successful, and is in its third year. It should be emphasized that although we are an inquiry based, IB world school, the emphasis in Talex was placed on “teaching” actual skills, more than a general inquiry.

A list of the Talex classes we offered can be found here, however the classes have changed slightly each year based on the available Talex leaders as well as the talents of the students.

Some highlights of the program include;

  • Our talented mathematicians learning how to program computers using the BASIC language, culminating in a “Master Programmer Challenge” where they needed to program a game using chance.
  • Our writers having many works published in our online school magazine.
  • Our designers learning how to use Adobe Illustrator (remarkably successfully.)
  • Our Talex singers wowing the audience at our Middle and High School talent show.
  • Our improv drama groups sometimes moving, oft hilarious performances.
  • Our Craft, Design Technology projects.

Lessons we learned:

  • In our original offerings, we didn’t include singing. However it was included in the second rotation onwards due to popular demand.  
  • Each year, there are 3 to 4 kids (out of 110) that don’t seem to really have any particular talent that either their teachers, or they themselves can identify. These students have done “Personal Passion” projects.
  • Parents make fantastic resources as Talex leaders
  • If kids are wrongly placed, they should be moved otherwise they will create a distraction or demand too much teacher input. This runs counter to one of the ideals of Talex in that it is focused on developing strength, not addressing weakness.

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