Utopian Restoration

Image Jo Freitag

Image Jo Freitag

“This is a task for Delta Dog!” declared the idealist Imaginational Dabrowski.
“Here comes Delta Dog swooping in with utopian ideals, creative ideas and humorous ideation to save the safety, sanity and sense of Sprite and her friends at Sprite’s Site!”

Imaginational was concerned about the less than ideal atmosphere at Sprite’s Site recently and was determined to do something to lighten the mood.

He tried standing on his head and making silly faces but nobody laughed and Intellectual said “Oh, do be sensible! Can’t you see we have serious worries?”

So Imaginational sat down with his trusty mind map to brainstorm the causes of the glum moods and anxiety.

He identified the problems as:

  • Anxiety caused by Little Bully Black Dog and the Pair O’Noids
  • Subject matter in the World History topic Sprite was studying
  • The books in Intellectual’s pile of suggested reading
  • The approaching elections
  • Issues surrounding the extent of personal responsibility for situations not within Sprite’s direct control

By drawing in the connecting lines Imaginational could see that all the causes of the gloom were inter-related.

So he started to think about which of the causes could be eliminated or changed

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Imaginational was happy to find that there were several things which could be changed. One change was already imminent. Next term the Social Studies unit which Sprite will be studying will be concerned with Geography rather than grim World History.
Imaginational could foresee that Sprite would be very interested in studying landforms and places such as Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef.

Image Jo Freitag

Image Jo Freitag

Next Imaginational asked Paula the Physicist, Sprite’s mentor, to come with him to visit Sprite and to bring some interesting books to lend to her to provide some alternative reading.

Image Jo Freitag

Image Jo Freitag

Paula brought some beautifully illustrated books about astronomy and biology for Sprite to borrow and a gift of an adult colouring book on the theme of art and mathematics and patterns found in nature.

Image Jo Freitag

Image Jo Freitag

She also organised for Sprite to spend some time with her in the laboratory looking at ripple tank experiments into the properties of light.

Watching the circles of waves which went out from the sources and the way they interacted with each other and with differing water levels was not only fascinating.
It also led to an interesting discussion about the nature of light and then to a philosophical discussion about the influence a single small spark of goodness or a random act of kindness could have spreading effects in a seemingly dark and wicked world.

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Dystopia

Image Jo Freitag

Image Jo Freitag

I had missed out on visiting Sprite’s Site on April Fools’ Day. Apparently the pranks played this year were not as original and well thought out as some of the previous years.
In 2010 and 2014 Sprite had claimed she could come into my dimension
and in 2012 Tweetil announced that he had swallowed a wormhole

This year the tricks had been restricted to whoopee cushions on chairs and Little Bully Black Dog sticking KICK ME signs on backs and then kicking everybody in the bottom whether or not they had a sign on them and calling them an April Fool if they protested.

No wonder the Pair O’Noids were still checking each other’s back every few minutes when I arrived a week later!

It was not only the Pair O’Noids who seemed to be out of sorts.
As Australia and the US approach elections another Sprite’s Site election is also due sometime in the next few months.

Caramel Cat has already announced his intention to again run for the Fat Cat Party and has been trumpeting his election promises. They sound like benefits for all on the surface but, when analysed, are found to only be benefits for Caramel Cat and his Fat Cat cronies.

Sprite is feeling concerned about the elections and about the state of the world.
It did not help that she had been studying some grim periods in World History and that, having studied George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Intellectual Dabrowski had made Sprite read Orwell’s 1984 and then suggested that she should also read Robert Westall’s  Futuretrack 5, Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day and Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

Sprite has always been concerned about how the leaders we elect behave and her own personal responsibility
She worries about the effects of climate change, broken promises from politicians, injustice to the indigenous peoples, and lack of compassion towards refugees, the elderly, the sick and the disadvantaged.
She is also made anxious by the Pair O’Noids whispered hints of conspiracies and a socially engineered return to a feudal system which benefits the rich at the expense of the poor.

“You have to stop Intellectual insisting that Sprite read all these dark dystopian future books!” Emotional Dabrowski said. “She is too young to worry about all that unpleasant stuff! It makes her feel sad and powerless.”

“It is a problem associated with Asynchronous Development” said Columbus Cheetah. “Sprite can understand those books and Intellectual insists that it is her duty to read them. And he is adamant that she must think about them critically and compare the worlds described in the stories with the conditions that she sees in the world.”

“She is not ready to deal with all the emotions these books stir up!” said Emotional.
“In fact I am not ready to go through it all with her yet either!”

“It feels like such a long time ago that she was reading Once upon a time” said Columbus “But it also feels like just yesterday!”

Donkeys live a long time 2

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Intellectual Dabrowski had suggested that Sprite should read George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Although she is quite a bit younger than I was when we studied the book at school, it probably would have been suitable for her to read as a story or even to read as an historical allegory. We could have had some great discussions about the book from either of those angles.

However her exceptionally gifted mind and the promptings of the overexcitable Dabrowski dogs lead Sprite to combine the story with the articles she was reading in the newspapers and make some completely unexpected connections and internalise the issues and messages of the book.

I found that instead of talking about a simple story or an allegory we were discussing communism, socialism, democracy, personal and corporate responsibility, ethics and morals, politicians’ electoral promises, refugees, the environment and a number of other issues.

In fact the discussion became so complex and had so many aspects to it that I needed to make a quick mindmap and I will write a series of posts about it.

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But one of the first issues that became apparent was that of Asynchronous Development.

Gifted children are often capable of reading and understanding and making further inferences from material that they are not mature enough to cope with emotionally.

We discussed this recently in a Twitter #GTChat session about locating age appropriate books for high ability learners
http://globalgtchatpoweredbytagt.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/locating-age-appropriate-books-for-high-ability-learners/

And the Hoagies Gifted Education Page July 2014 blog hop focused on Summer reading
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_summer_reading.htm

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Hoagies have a section dedicated to reading at
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/reading_lists.htm

And I also found ERIC Guiding the gifted reader on the Hoagies site
http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/eric/e481.html

Asynchronous development is at the heart of the Columbus Group definition of giftedness and impacts every aspect of the life of a gifted child.
http://www.gifteddevelopment.com/isad/columbus-group 

Articles about it can be found at

SENG Asynchronous development
http://www.sengifted.org/archives/articles/asynchronous-developmen

Lisa Rivero Many ages at once
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-synthesis/201201/many-ages-once

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“Just tell me before we go on any further – why are you sitting in the Naughty Corner?” I asked Sprite.

“I put myself here because I am not being active in doing something when I can see things are not right or not fair” said Sprite.

“But in my own defence I have to say that I don’t know what I should be doing and there are just so many things wrong or not fair that I don’t even know where to start!”

“You and me – both!” I agreed

Reading to dogs

Sprite loves reading. She reads very fast and with excellent comprehension when she reads silently.
But reading aloud is a different matter. Sprite lacks confidence when it comes to reading aloud.
She is afraid she will lose the place and miss words or jump from one line to the next.
And the more anxious she becomes the more likely she is to make mistakes.

Whenever Sprite reads the Overexcitable Dabrowski dogs gather round to read with her. See Sharing the news with the Dabrowski dogs https://spritessite.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/sharing-the-news-with-the-dabrowski-dogs/
Sprite feels comfortable reading aloud to the Dabrowski dogs and was not surprised to learn that many libraries and schools have Reading to Dogs programs.

You can read about them at
Reading to dogs http://readingtodogs.weebly.com/index.html
Read to me dogs http://readingtodogs.weebly.com/successful-programs.html
Dogs in Libraries http://www.librarydogs.com/

In Australia we have Reading Labs http://www.assistancedogs.org.au/Reading-Labs.php
and Storydogs http://www.storydogs.org.au/

Sprite suggested that the Dabrowski dogs should volunteer to be trained to be Read to Me Dogs.

She read to them an interview with Sophie, a literary assistance dog, at http://www.canadasguidetodogs.com/dogjobs/therapy8.htm

However, only three of them were accepted into the program.
Sensual was considered unsuitable because of his habit of scratching and Psycho Motor could not sit still long enough to listen to a whole story.

Emotional and Imaginational completed their training very quickly and began work in local libraries and schools.

Emotional was a natural. With her empathy and warmth she was able to make children feel comfortable and confident.

Imaginational enjoyed helping the readers to see the pictures described in the stories and to predict what might happen next. And he is so gentle and quiet (and so very cute and lamb-like) that children love reading to him.

Everyone thought that Intellectual would be an ideal Reading Assistance Dog.

But, as it turns out; he still needs more training and more practice with Sprite.
This is because Intellectual can be quite pedantic, he loves to debate issues forcibly and his intellect can be intimidating at times.
He assumed that it would be his duty to actually teach the students and instead of listening patiently he was interrupting and correcting mistakes.