Tukuna Kia Rere – Gifted Learners

Gifted Education Q&A


What is MODS? 

Modified One Day School (MODS) is part of our continuum of provision for gifted learners in our St Mark’s School family. MODS provides opportunities for like-minded fellowship, using the potential of our God given talents and gifts.

Students in MODS remain in their regular hapori most of the time, but spend one session a week with a small group of gifted learners. This may be a morning, afternoon, half day, or full day, depending on learning needs and availability. Our MODS room is adjacent to the Ōmoho, giving us our own space to learn at our own pace in different ways. Activities include creativity challenges and lively debate. When planning and delivering MODS, I ask myself,

“1. Would all children want to be involved in such learning experiences

2. Could all children participate in such learning experiences

3. Should all children be expected to succeed in such learning experiences?”

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, I am probably not meeting the needs of our gifted learners and need to make things more different or difficult.


What is the point of MODS?

The purpose of MODS is to meet the social, emotional, and learning needs of our gifted ākonga. Research clearly shows that being with like-minds is vital for these students’ learning and well-being.   


What does MODS entail? What do the children do within MODS?

As part of our ongoing MODS pilot programme, we are developing an evidence-based curriculum, customised to meet the social, emotional, and learning needs of our gifted ākonga at St Mark’s School. Our current curriculum content includes caring, creative, and critical thinking, which we develop through discussion and a wide range of learning activities. We have participated in the Ethics Olympiad and will be participating in iNVENTIONATOR this year.


When is MODS held? 

The MODS schedule is adapted to fit within our specialist teaching model with minimal disruption. In previous years, MODS was held on Mondays, but this clashed with kapa haka, so we changed our schedule. All MODS sessions in 2022 will be held on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays.


How many hours a week/month does MODS take up? 

We have trialled a range of sessions in our MODS pilot, depending on age and best fit with our existing programmes. These have varied from a full day each week for year 7-8 in the first year of our pilot, to fortnightly afternoons for a Waka Pūhara boys’ pilot group, to one afternoon a week for Mōkihi learners this term. We have found that consistent weekly sessions work best and will continue to modify our schedule in response to learners’ needs. 


How do you define ‘gifted’? I would have thought most children are gifted and special in at least one (if not more) areas of their personality/life?

Following extensive community consultation (including surveys, school-wide newsletter updates, two Tukuna Kia Rere hui, information on our website, a gifted ed committee meeting, and ongoing kōrero with whānau involved in our MODS pilot) we are now trialling a provisional definition of giftedness. This provisional definition is clearly stated and explained on our Gifted Register (and MODS) Nomination Form.


Doesn’t every parent think their child is gifted?  

Our parents of gifted learners say:

“I think it’s the opposite… It’s a bit embarrassing.” 

“I think as a parent, you know. Your kids don’t fit.”

The evidence says:

“[there are] numerous studies by various researchers confirming that parents are, in fact, very good indeed at identifying giftedness… It does not mean that every parent is always right. It does mean that parents have a very high likelihood of being right… Parents should be our priority source of information.” (Cathcart, 2020, 31)

We haven’t yet been inundated by whānau nominations. The more our St Mark’s Family learns about giftedness, the better we will become at identifying students who need the support and challenge of MODS or other provisions for gifted learners.  


Is it simply up to parents to nominate or do the teachers put children forward too, even if parents don’t put them forward?

We welcome nominations from parents, teachers, and students (self or peer nomination). Our kaiako have been involved in every step of our pilot and are in regular contact with our Kaiako Pūmanawa, Specialist Teacher Gifted, Cristy Yonetani.


What about my twice/multi-exceptional child?

We are always on the lookout for twice/multi-exceptional learners. 

“As a parent of two twice-exceptional kids, it’s actually really nice that this is a programme that supports their strengths because so much time and effort goes into their weaknesses that we kind of forget that they have those strengths…Quite often they’re really hidden… Other kids in the class don’t appreciate what their mind is actually capable of. All they see… is that [they] can’t write and [they] can’t sit still, but there’s a mind that’s just going at a hundred miles an hour behind that.” 


What about diagnostic assessment?

Expert assessment by an Educational Psychologist or other licensed professional is invaluable. This is especially important for twice/multi-exceptional learners, whose giftedness can be masked by specific learning disabilities. The New Zealand Association For Gifted Children lists several clinicians in Christchurch who have experience dealing with gifted children. It is important to note that not all gifted learners score well on IQ tests. “We cannot use an IQ score by itself to say a child is not exceptionally able or to dismiss other evidence which does indicate exceptional ability. On the other hand, a high IQ score is definitely, irrefutably evidence of high cognitive ability, no matter how ungifted the child appears in the classroom.” (Cathcart, 2020, 36) If you have a diagnostic assessment identifying your child’s giftedness, please let us know. 


What about other high achievers?

Most high achievers don’t require the additional support and challenge of MODS. Our continuum of provision (addressed in our 2022 Tukuna Kia Rere hui) includes many other options, such as extension/enrichment groups in particular subject areas, lunchtime clubs, participation in University of Canterbury Kiwi Competitions, Cantamath, sports tournaments, or differentiation within the hapori. Please talk to your kaiako hapori if you are concerned that your child’s learning needs are not being met.    


What about gifted athletes and artists? 

Depending on a student’s other interests or abilities, MODS may not be the best fit for gifted athletes or artists. There are many exceptionalities and ways of being gifted. As we develop our specialist teaching model, our aim is to support all kinds of giftedness. This is a long term goal and we look forward to your involvement on our journey.  


What about EQ and IQ? 

Emotional quotient (EQ) and intelligence quotient (IQ) can manifest in all sorts of mixtures. The stereotype of the gifted academic with no social skills is misleading. In fact, giftedness often manifests as heightened empathy and moral concern. As we develop our St Mark’s School definition of giftedness in consultation with our St Mark’s School Family, we will continue to acknowledge and celebrate our St Mark’s School values, including care for others.  


If my child is in MODS or extension groups, can I expect to hear about their progress from their hapori teacher?  

As Kaiako Pūmanawa |Specialist Teacher Gifted, I am the first point of contact for queries about MODS. I send weekly updates to MODS whāna to keep everyone in the loop. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have questions or concerns about your child’s experiences as a gifted learner: c.yonetani@saintmarks.school.nz


How do you explain this programme to the children, especially those who are not in MODS? 

MODS is a programme for students who learn differently. Not every student needs to be in MODS and MODS is not suitable for most students.   


Isn’t it possible that because we’re an integrated school and parents choose to come here that.. the gifted category… might be over-represented here?

We don’t yet have any evidence to suggest that we have a disproportionate amount of gifted learners at our school. Evidence is clear that gifted learners come from all cultures, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds. However, as one parent pointed out:   

“Most of my experience with gifted kids is that they don’t fit modern learning environments, so you start looking and that’s one of the draw cards. When we started as a new-entrant… there were three or four parents who said they specifically chose here because of the single-cell classrooms.” 

MODS admission is on a case-by-case basis and although MODS numbers are capped at 12 per group, our school’s gifted registry is not limited to an arbitrary maximum. We are keen to keep doors open and engage in ongoing discussion to best meet the needs of every learner.  


Gifted Education Q&A Archive

2021 Admission to MODS

Participation in MODS in 2021 is part of our on-going pilot, so some changes in membership are to be expected as we gather data in our evidence-based approach. Students invited to join MODS will do so on a provisional basis, until we can be confident that this is the best fit to meet their learning needs. Ultimately, decisions rest with our school management and Dr Averil Worner, in consultation with Specialist Teacher – Gifted, Cristy Yonetani. 

The purpose of our admissions process is to recognise learners who need extra challenge and support. We are committed to keeping the door open, early identification, exploring a wide range of evidence, and ensuring equity of access. We affirm that “gifted learners can be found in every socio-economic level and in every culture and regardless of gender.” (Cathcart, 2020, 37) and expect this diversity to be reflected in our gifted learners registry.   

There are several ways students can gain admission to MODS, including whānau nomination, diagnostic assessment, self or peer nomination, and teacher nomination.  


How were students chosen for MODS in 2020?

Our pilot programme started in term one with year 6-8 students nominated by teachers. In term three, we invited Mōkihi whānau and teachers to nominate children. This shift was evidence-based, moving towards early identification and greater whānau involvement. We had hoped to launch our pilot school-wide by the end of 2020, but had to extend the timeline of our pilot in response to the lockdowns.