NYC Gifted and Talented Program and Testing

Fostering high-order thinking for the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests
November 30, 2017, 6:07 pm
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High-order thinking needed for the NYC Gifted and Talented Test

The definition of cognition states that it is “the mental faculty or process by which knowledge is acquired.”  When a child combines aspects of cognitive skills to evaluate what he sees, hears, and reads, and then makes decisions, reaches conclusions, or solves problems based on analysis of information, he is using “higher-order thinking.”  Kids naturally use these skills, often getting it wrong, but only because they are just beginning to understand the laws and rules governing the world.  For example, they might surmise that since you grew tomatoes from seeds, why couldn’t you plant a steak bone and grow a cow?

This “higher-order thinking” was explained and is still relevant today by Russian author Korney Chukovsky in his 1928 book, From Two to Five.  He demonstrated through observations that children’s higher-order thinking process takes shape in this way:

  • Observing and asking questions – watching and listening begins their exploration.
  • Sorting, classifying, and comparing for conceptual thinking – children then sort the information that has been gathered into groups and classifications.
  • Reasoning – they now start to make sense of concepts or form opinions. (I always liked the story of the little boy who witnessed his grandma remove her dentures who said, “Wow, now take out your eyes, Granny!”.….out of the mouths [and minds] of babes!)
  • Hypothesizing – they can now use reasoning skills to predict what might happen next.
  • Problem Solving – children will eventually realize with experience that situations can be changed. And, using creative thinking, they can generate ideas, look for alternatives and try to see beyond the obvious to solve a problem (cheers to Thomas Edison!)
  • Critical Thinking – the child will now consider different sides of an issue or a possible solution, while weighing the pros and cons and forming an opinion.
  • Decision Making – after examining and evaluating all sides of an issue or the options on the table, he makes the best choice he can.

And, it’s been proven that children who grow up using higher-order thinking become more creative, flexible and persistent because they know how to generate, critique and choose from an assortment of ideas and don’t become flustered when they hit a dead end, because they know how to seek out alternatives.

As a parent, you can foster your child’s higher-order thinking skills by doing the following as you prepare for the OLSAT and NNAT-2 tests for entry into the NYC Gifted and Talented Program:

  • Promote questions: Yes, I said it….keep the barrage of questions coming, no matter how painful they may be!  And, offer up answers that will encourage his desire to explore deeper, engage in conversation on the topic and expand the discussion.
  • Don’t Solve Problems for your child: If you solve your child’s problem for him, you’re taking away an opportunity for her to use her own problem-solving skills.  Plus, if a child is constantly directed on how to do things, she will look to you for the answers rather than try for herself.
  • Encourage experimentation: Teach your child that there is rarely one correct way to solve a problem and praise and applaud her even if it doesn’t work.
  • Teach adaptability: If, after using problem-solving, your child’s decision didn’t work, simply show your child that you can go back, reevaluate and try something else.  This ability to roll with change is critical to succeeding in our dynamic, ever-changing world.
  • Let go of control: This is the hard one, but it’s known that parents who constantly exert control over their children squash their creative spirits. So, next time there’s a mud pie bake off, BACK OFF and let the baking begin, because this is where your child gets to experiment, explore, think and try out her ideas.  The value of play is the play itself, not what is produced, although a Fruit Loop mud pie is enticing!

Helping a shy child take OLSAT test
November 23, 2017, 4:38 pm
Filed under: OLSAT Test, testing mom | Tags:

A few tips on helping a shy child taking the OLSAT test

In most cases you probably will not be able to go with your son or daughter into a testing room It’s very rare that you would be able to actually go in. There’s a lot that you could do ahead of time to help your child get ready and be a little bit more comfortable going into the testing room. First of all, you want to give your child experience way before the OLSAT test talking to people who are safe strangers who are going to be similar to the tester that your child is going to meet with, someone they don’t really know but someone who is safe. You can do that, let your child pay for something at a store and talk to the person behind the counter, or let your child order for herself at a restaurant and talk to the waiter or waitress. Any time you can give your child an opportunity to talk to somebody who is not you, but is a stranger who is safe, let your child do that.

You can also talk to your child ahead of time and explain to them what’s going to happen. “You’re going to be meeting with a special teacher who is very nice, just like your teacher, Mrs. so and so.” Connect the experience to something your child has done well at already. You can say, “She’s just like your nice teacher, Mrs. so and so and she wants to know what four year olds know. You just answer her questions. It’ll be fun, just like going to school is.” Helping them feel comfortable with what’s to come, that’s something you can do.

You might take her or him to a tutor and have them work with your child as well. In that case they’ll just have experience with what the tester is going to be like, another safe stranger. You can read the transcript from shyness expert Dr. Roberto Carducci, and he gives lots of hints and tips about what you could do with a very shy child to help them open up and feel more comfortable on test day.

Gifted programs vs. general ed
November 17, 2017, 5:16 am
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Is there a difference between a gifted program and general education?

Many gifted programs in New York City work at an accelerated pace. Unfortunately, in a general education program there may be slower learners and a lot of times the teachers are pressured to bring the slower learners up to speed. In a gifted program you rarely have that case because all of the kids are performing at or above grade level, so therefore the pace of the program can be very rapid and the teacher doesn’t feel like he or she is leaving kids behind because all of the kids are pretty much at the same pace.

I would also say in many instances, and you would need to check with your local school district depending on where you live, many of the teachers are certified in gifted education, which means they have a deeper knowledge of gifted every education and how it all works. Many of these teachers want to be gifted teachers so they have an excitement, not only for teaching, but also for teaching gifted or advanced students which adds index to layer of, I would say extra layer of credibility to the teachers who actually teach in many of the gifted programs. But you want to check your local school to see if the gifted teachers are certified or what type of extra education the teachers may have.

The next question is, “Shouldn’t I just let her,” I guess her child, “be a kid in a regular class without all that pressure?”

Well, I don’t think there’s a lot of extra pressure in a gifted classroom. I wouldn’t worry about that. If your child does qualify to be in the gifted program chances are they’ll be able to handle the level of work that’s in the program. What you want to do, certainly before you choose a gifted program, you want to go visit the schools, tour the programs, see if it feels like a good fit for your child, but it’s not like because they’re in a gifted program they’re going to be under a lot of pressure to perform that’s that different from being in a general ed classroom. It’s just that they’re going to be working at a different pace that is the pace they can handle and that they love to learn in.

I mean there’s nothing worse than when you have a gifted child in a general ed classroom whose very, very bored because they’re doing lessons that they already know and understand. Like if you’ve got a child who’s, let’s say a kid in first grade and she’s reading at a second or third grade level, and they’re just learning how to decipher and decode basic words that child’s going to be bored. It’s really more about getting your child in a class that’s at the right level for their intellectual capabilities. That’s what you’re looking for so if your child qualifies I wouldn’t worry about them feeling like they’re under a lot of pressure.


Folding laundry and preparing for the OLSAT test
November 6, 2017, 11:05 am
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Did you know that something as simple as sorting laundry helps develop your tot’s higher order thinking?

Sorting laundry into different colors requires that your child arrange items into different categories, classify them into groups and compare what goes together and what doesn’t. These skills are very commonly assessed on OLSAT test that your child will take for admissions into the NYC Gifted and Talented Program.

When children use their minds to evaluate what they see, hear or read and then make decisions, reach conclusions or solve problems based on their analysis of that information, that child is using higher order thinking or cognitive skills. The OLSAT test evaluates how well children think in many different ways.

Here are three types of questions that assess a young child’s higher order thinking skills.

  1. The child has to decide which picture doesn’t belong. Four of the insects have wings, so they go together. The snail can’t fly so it doesn’t belong and that’s our answer.
  2. In another type of question, the child has to decide which of these figural images doesn’t belong. This type of question can be very tricky. Here all the small black boxes are set in corners except for the middle picture. That’s our answer because it doesn’t belong.
  3. Other OLSAT questions require a different kind of sorting. The child must choose one picture on top that goes with one picture on the bottom. The pig goes with the cow because they’re both farm animals.

Sorting laundry is just one of the ways you can teach your child the skill of classifying in everyday life. You can start today with Testing Mom preparing your child for the New York City Gifted and Talented exam.