Gifted and Talented Education
The G.A.T.E. Program at Dahlia
Welcome to the GATE program at Dahlia Heights! This page will be updated with information throughout the school year, so please check back regularly.
- If you have questions about the GATE program at Dahlia Heights, please contact one of our GATE parent liaisons:
- If you have general questions about how GATE works in the L.A. Unified School District, please click on this link for a wealth of information from the LAUSD.
- If you want to know how GATE students are identified at Dahlia, and at all LAUSD schools, please click this link.
- The Dahlia GATE program has 2 general parent meetings per year, and 2 GATE/SAS parent workshops (see schedule below). The general meetings are open to ALL parents. The parent workshops are directed at parents of current GATE students, but any parent interested in the topics is welcome to attend.
Want to know more? Please contact the GATE parent liaisons, or check in the School Office for details, and to sign up for the GATE parent email list!
What is the G.A.T.E. Program LIke at Dahlia Heights?
Dahlia Heights’ GATE program differentiates the curriculum by content, process, and product, as well as by readiness, interest, and learning style.
Based on input from our GATE parent community, we have chosen “Critical Thinking” and “Arts and Communication Skills” as our GATE program goals. We accomplish this through a curriculum that is rooted in STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) and social justice, especially environmentalism. By designing inquiry-based learning experiences related to these themes we are able to reach all of the multiple intelligences, and differentiate the curriculum based on students’ own individual interests and levels of readiness. Critical thinking is fostered by connecting State and Common Core standards to real-world issues of social justice and environmentalism. An emphasis on inquiry-based learning, rich with student collaboration and arts experiences, allows our teachers to bring exceptional depth, complexity, and novelty to curricula. Additionally, our teachers emphasize the "five Cs" of 21st century learning: Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Community.
All grade levels use basic elements of differentiation, such as acceleration/reteaching through flexible grouping and compacting, novelty through the arts and research, especially related to real-world problems, and depth via patterns and trends over time. Although our youngest identified GATE students are in Grade 2, the goals of art and critical thinking begin in Kindergarten and First Grade, as students experience a wide variety of arts experiences, learn about environmentalism in our ever-expanding organic garden-education program, and study what it means to be part of a community. Our parent community participates extensively to facilitate these programs. The importance we place on providing our youngest students with differentiated instruction prior to GATE identification reflects our SAS program, which generally receives the most applicants for Kindergarten and First Grade.
In second grade, students have many differentiated experiences. Their reading and writing curriculum is differentiated by readiness and interest as they themselves choose books and news stories to read and write about. Instruction is targeted to each individual student’s level. The math curriculum is compacted to allow for accelerated learning for students who are ready. Hands-on Equations and Ancient Numbers Systems are examples of math activities for GATE and high-achieving students. Collaborative experiences in the arts (drawing, painting, music, film, and dance) address all learning styles and add novelty to the curriculum. A strong emphasis is placed on students learning to provide supporting evidence for all claims.
The theme of “heroes” is used to link a variety of standards-based inquiry units. Students research extinct and endangered animals, environmental problems, people who made a difference in their community, and their own family histories in interrelated inquiry units throughout the year. Throughout all inquiry units there is a focus on environmental issues that goes far beyond the grade level standards. Students learn about themselves, others who made a difference in their community, and ways they themselves can be heroes for the world. They create many novel works of art such as books, sculptures, drawings, posters, paintings, skits, animated films, and GarageBand songs to demonstrate their learning. They create a museum of endangered species paintings and devise a fundraiser to help support work to help endangered animals. They research which charity would be most deserving of this money and make presentations to pitch the charity of their choice. Students then vote on which charity should receive their money. Over the past two years, the second grade has donated over $2200 to organizations helping endangered animals, empowering students that they can make a positive difference in the world. In order to accomplish these inquiry-based learning activities, the curriculum is accelerated when appropriate. All inquiry projects are used as anchor activities to allow learners to move at their own pace through various projects. Pretests are used to determine when content can be compacted, and flexible grouping is used to remediate concepts when needed. To support the CCSS a wide variety of instructional materials are accessed by students: Print and non-print materials, above-grade-level texts, technology such as computers and iPads, and primary source materials are all available for student research. In this way depth, complexity, novelty, and acceleration are a central part of the differentiated curriculum.
In third grade, students integrate the arts with daily standards-based activities, both as a process for learning and a product by which to demonstrate their learning. The arts are used to access all multiple intelligences. Students create research-based art projects related to both their Native American content standards and sustainable agriculture, which they enter into competition at the Pomona Student Agricultural and Nutrition Fair. They research causes of societal homelessness and raise money for a local homeless shelter, raising over $900 this year alone. Students are given many resources for their research, including above-grade-level texts, multicultural materials, and both print and non-print resources. Projects are supported with meaningful field trips. Students also undertake a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, interwoven with songs by the Beatles, as an exploration of the enduring idea of human relationships across time, from a variety of viewpoints. Acceleration is provided through compacting, tiered assignments, flexible grouping, and high-level questions.
In fourth grade, students work collaboratively to create both a play and a puppet show based on the social studies standards of California. Interest and readiness are differentiated as students explore a science unit in which they ask questions about the world and design experiments to answer them. They define the question, make hypotheses, use logic to design an experiment, and then verify their solutions. In a related unit, students write biographies of scientists who made a difference in the world, and then give presentations about the people. Students have a choice in the product they will use for their presentations. Most choose a combination of visual, oral, written, and kinesthetic presentations. Students are provided with a variety of grade-level and above-grade-level resources for their research. Compacting, tiered assignments, flexible grouping, and high-level questions are instructional strategies used to differentiate the curriculum.
In fifth grade, the arts and technology are strongly infused throughout the 5th grade curriculum as a means of differentiating instruction for depth, complexity, and novelty, as well as interest, readiness, and learning style. Students adapt a book, The One and Only Ivan, into a play that they perform. This book relates to themes of environmentalism and social justice, because it is about endangered animals who are mistreated in an unethical zoo. To create their play, students note details and discuss ethical considerations. They then access all the multiple intelligences to design and create their original interpretation of the book in a live performance. In another novel investigation of science and technology, students collaboratively design pollution extracting machines as a part of a study of the local watershed. They must identify the problem, hypothesize a solution, and verify that their solution works. Students use technology to test the water of the LA River for pollution and report their findings at the 5th Grade Kids’ Convention at the Ocean Institute. Students also collaboratively create an animated film teaching others about how to care for our watershed. They individually make a PowerPoint about saving rainforests. They begin designing robots in collaboration with sixth-grade students. Continuing activities begun in second grade, they create comic books about what it means to be a hero. Students experiment with 3-D printers, first designing a 2-D product in Tinker CAD, and again to create a 2-D Mayan or Aztec artifact and make a 3-D print of it. Students research and create a book on one of the 50 states. Students create a Native American drum circle and perform for the school, linking music to the social studies curriculum. In all inquiry units, students are provided access to a wide variety of resources (print and non-print, primary source, technology, multicultural materials, and field trips). Naturally, compacting, flexible grouping, etc, are used to differentiate the curriculum for student readiness.
In sixth grade, Dahlia Heights 5th/6th grade robotic curriculum provides students opportunities to collaborate in teams and work across grade levels. Students use NXT and EV3 Lego robots purchased through the PTA. Students choose teams based on members’ goals and interests. Students learn specific skills before beginning independent study projects. The basic skills needed as a basis for independent study are divided into 2 levels. As students progress through these programming levels, they gain confidence and begin to mentor 5th grade students on a weekly basis. Students in 5th grade may accelerate and join 6th grade students during robotics lessons and labs. Before students begin their independent study unit in robotics, they select new team members based on their strengths and interest. Each team selects a structure or new robot to design and program. Students participate in an annual robotics competition. During the competition, students display their independent study projects, show their basic robots successfully completing teacher and student designed obstacle courses, and compete in a robot-sumo match. In order to design successful robots, students must identify the tasks that their robot must perform, hypothesize how best to accomplish the tasks, design the robot, test it, and redesign as necessary. Students explain the process of building and programming to our school community during the annual robotics competition. Visitors include parents, all grade levels, and community members.
Class plays are tied to 6th grade history standards. Students choose an ancient myth as the focus for a school play. After studying ancient myths, students choose one myth. Students may audition to be an actor. They may also become a crew-member, script writer, musical director, special effects director, or the main director. The director is in charge of auditions. Crew members design the setting, props, and costumes with the assistance of their teacher. The musical and special effects directors collaborate to create a visual-sensory experience that matches the moods needed for each scene. Script writers modify an existing script or create a script using a copy of the myth. Students present the play at the end of the school year. The play is scheduled during the day for the school community and at least one evening for parents and the community.
Students choose between their 6th grade Treasures survival unit and Glencoe science renewable energy unit to present at an end-of-year science fair. Students choose teams based on their interest. During the Treasures survival unit students select natural disasters to research. Each team explains the natural disaster, and then presents how to prepare for survival. When students select the renewable energy fair, they research the need for solar panels, electric cars, etc. They also research present options, future possibilities in renewable energy, as well as controversies. Students are required to use three reliable resources, take notes, and create a presentation for the fair. Students may create a Power Point or a display for the science fair. The fair is presented in the school auditorium.
IN ALL GRADES...
In addition to the highly novel activities described above, basic management techniques of differentiation are used in all curricular areas. Students are asked high-level questions. Flexible grouping is used for targeted instruction. Compacting is used to facilitate acceleration of the curriculum when possible. Students identify patterns, trends, and rules. They relate ideas over time and see things from multiple perspectives. They differentiate fact from opinion, give supporting evidence, and make judgments. This provides both identified GATE students and non-identified GATE students with best-practice learning experiences.
As well as creating opportunities for students to explore the 5 Cs of 21st Century Learning, Dahlia Heights is making efforts to strengthen these practices among its staff and parent community. We are devoting a greater allocation of professional development time to cross-grade-level collaboration in order to more effectively capitalize on the inquiry projects of previous grade levels, and to support each other where possible with materials and/or expertise. We feel that greater collaboration and communication between our staff members enhances the meaningfulness of the inquiry units of each grade level, and helps us understand more clearly where our own thematic instruction fits in the bigger picture of STEAM and social justice/environmentalism at our school. Additionally more collaborative planning related to GATE provides more opportunities for mixed-age collaboration for our students. Finally, to promote greater collaboration, we are splitting the roles of GATE and SAS coordinator from one person to two, so that we have one representative for the upper grades and one for the lower grades. In addition to mitigating the workload of these coordinatorships, this change will foster greater collaboration between primary and upper-grade teachers.
We have also been attempting to expand the role of community collaboration at Dahlia Heights. We feel that a great school can be the center of its community. Dahlia Heights is at the center of a very economically and racially diverse community in Eagle Rock. Our parents have a wide variety of skills and interests to share with students, and many are eager to have a meaningful role in their children’s educational experience. Parents are encouraged to volunteer in classroom projects that are matched to their aptitudes. Teachers and parents collaborate so that parents can provide enriching experiences in classrooms and the school garden that reinforce state and Common Core standards, while accessing a wide variety of the multiple intelligences and learning modalities, as well as other elements of differentiated education.
Finally, in 2015-16 Dahlia Heights has expanded its GATE parent representation from one GATE parent representative to a committee of four parents. These parents will assist in the dissemination of GATE-related information, help to facilitate GATE parent workshops, keep Dahlia Heights’ GATE program’s web presence current, help with community outreach and community volunteering opportunities, strengthen the cohesion of our GATE parent community, and provide input for the ongoing evolution of our GATE program.