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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Schools across the country, globe use MCPSS's Talents Unlimited model

Posted by Rena Philips in General  |  Comments (6)

MOBILE, Alabama -- One recent day, teacher Mary Martin wanted her kindergartners at Mary B. Austin to use their critical thinking skills.

So, she asked them a thought-provoking question she knew they’d be able to relate to.

“What would happen if you went trick-or-treating and you forgot your bag?” she asked.

“We would not be able to get candy,” one student said.

“We might have to go back and get our bag,” said another.

“You might have to share with somebody else,” said yet another.

Or, another bright youngster replied: “You might have your hands so full that you drop your candy.”

“My uncle would eat all my candy,” said a student.

Visitors from other schools in Mobile County, across the state and even across the country were visiting Martin’s and other teachers, classrooms on that recent day.

They were at Mary B. Austin to learn about Talents Unlimited, a teaching model designed and based in Mobile County that has been recognized nationally for its successes.

Talents Unlimited can be used in conjunction with any subject that is being taught. It promotes higher-order thinking and creativity. And it’s a way to encourage all types of learners to be engaged in classroom activities, said Cathy Cink, a Talents Unlimited certified trainer at Mary B. Austin.

There are five components:

Productive thinking, which encourages students to think outside of the box.

Communication, which teaches students to express their ideas using written, verbal and non-verbal methods.

Forecasting, which emphasizes cause and effect and decision-making. Students learn to think critically and evaluate criteria.

Planning, which encourages students how to think through the steps of a process and troubleshoot.

Decision making, which allows students to practice weighing alternatives and criteria to make good decisions.

These are all skills that any student – or any adult – needs to be 21st-century learners, Cink said.

“When applied, the five critical and creative processes require students to go beyond memorization and think about factual information in more challenging ways,” said Talents Unlimited Coordinator Lynn Huey. “Used in concert with academic knowledge, these processes enhance students’ critical and creative thinking.”

Martin’s classroom activity falls under the “forecasting” component.

Upstairs, second-graders were practicing “productive thinking,” by coming up with the “many varied things that could have been brought on to Christopher Columbus’ ship.”

Students practiced naming items by groups.

“A flock of seagulls,” one student said.

“A team of football players,” said another.

“What would a group of skunks be?” a student asked.

“I don’t know,” teacher Jennifer Fischer replied. “If you find out, I’ll give you extra credit.”

John George, who was visiting from Hood College in Maryland, was looking at student work that was hanging brightly and proudly on the walls of Mary B. Austin.

He seemed pleased with the way one teacher was working on the concept of similes by having her students write about having best friends who are “as special as….”

“That’s good not only for reading, but for social studies as you learn about relationships,” he said. “I’m impressed.”

The group met at Five Rivers conference center on the Causeway for an overview of Talents Unlimited. They visited Maryvale, Council and Dixon elementary schools.

The International Office of Talents Unlimited is located within the Mobile County Public School System. The office provides training and materials for teachers across the country.

Talents Unlimited is being used by schools in 38 states as well as internationally in countries including England, Guatamala, Nova Scotia, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. 

Austin, Council and Dixon are considered Talents Unlimited Model Schools. Eighteen other Mobile County schools use Talents school-wide.

This method of teaching coincides well with Alabama’s new College and Career Ready Standards, which are designed to be relevant in the real world.

“Talents Unlimited centers on higher order thinking skills that move students beyond recall and understanding,” Huey said. “By integrating the Talents Unlimited behaviors with the standards, students are able to analyze and apply the knowledge and information gained in the classroom to real world situations.”

Comments on "Schools across the country, globe use MCPSS's Talents Unlimited model"

11/13/2013 4:55:40 PM CST

1. Mary Alice Pouliot

T: C1   Many, Varied, Single Words to describe teaching with Talents: fun, exciting, surprising, delightful, uplifting, encouraging, different, motivating, spontaneous, challenging, differentiated, encouraging, and successful.

I love working at a Talents Unlimited Model school! I also love that my child benefits from attending Mary B. Austin and using Talents higher order thinking every day!

11/12/2013 3:51:42 PM CST

2. Cathy Walker said...

The Talents Unlimited Model is wonderful to spark creativity and critical thinking.  When I tell my students we are about to do a talents activity they get very excited. That's what you want to see, students getting excited.  I was very fortunate to become a certified trainer this summer and learn more about Talents at this conference.  Thanks Lynn Huey for being a great example to all of us!! Thanks to Ms. Zeigler, and Cathy Rogers for allowing us to visit your schools!!

11/9/2013 11:21:29 AM CST

3. Dr. Cindy Shepardson said...

I have been using Talents Unlimited with students of all ages and abilities, within all content areas since 1981 when I became a National Certified Trainer for the model. I have found it to be one of the best ways to integrate both creative and critical thinking within all aspects of my teaching. It promotes higher-level, independent thinking on the part of students and I have incorporated the methods within my teaching even at the college level!

11/8/2013 10:00:30 AM CST

4. Lynn Huey said...

Thank you to all my awesome Talents Unlimited Model schools! You do a great job every day!

11/8/2013 9:02:23 AM CST

5. Cathy Cink said...

It is so great to have Talents Unlimited recognized! I really hope more teachers will be trained and will implement this teaching model to encourage our students to think more creatively and critically.

11/8/2013 8:54:50 AM CST

6. Kelly Lomax said...

Great article!! Talents Unlimited is a perfect way to incorporate the CCRS into every classroom and emphasize higher-order thinking with every student. Thank you, Lynn Huey, for continuing to keep the fire fueled for Talents Unlimited!

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